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Iowa Workmans Comp: Who’s Covered and Who’s Not?

April 05, 2021By Niko Pothitakis

While a majority of employees in Iowa may qualify for workers’ compensation coverage in the event of a work-related injury or illness, certain types of employees are excluded. Depending on individuals’ occupations and employment status, they may be unable to receive workers’ comp benefits. The following are some of the types of workers who may be ineligible for these benefits in Iowa, along with alternatives to provide them with protection if they suffer work-related injuries.

Independent Contractors

Iowa law doesn’t require employers to provide workers’ comp coverage for independent contractors. Unlike regular part- or full-time employees, independent contractors operate as independent entities or businesses separate from employers. However, there are specific complexities regarding the differences between independent contractors and employees in Iowa, which are important to understand. Failure to properly classify workers could also lead to certain legal repercussions under Iowa law.

Casual Employees

Employees who perform work under casual employment that falls outside of the employer’s business or trade are also ineligible to receive workers’ comp benefits. On the other hand, some employers may hire temporary workers to assist with increased demand, particularly if this increase in demand is inconsistent enough to warrant hiring long-term employees. In these cases, employees may qualify for workers’ comp seeing as they’re not casual employees while working in the employer’s trade or at their facilities.

Agricultural Employees

In some cases, agricultural employees may qualify for workers’ comp, but there are certain circumstances when they don’t qualify. The law regarding the specifics around coverage for agricultural workers is also complex. However, in most cases, non-family farm workers are able to receive coverage, provided the farm has a yearly payroll of more than $2,500.

Truck Drivers Who Own and Operate Their Own Vehicles

Generally, truck drivers who work under a trucking company and with company vehicles qualify for workers’ compensation coverage. If truck drivers work for a trucking company while owning and operating their own vehicles, however, they may not receive coverage. Iowa law dictates that under certain conditions, owner-operators won’t fall under the umbrella of workers’ comp-qualifying employees. This could be particularly detrimental for truck drivers, as truck driving often comes with a higher risk of accidents and injuries than other types of work.

The conditions listed in Iowa Code Section 85.61(.11)(c)(3) include:

  • Truck owner-operators manage all vehicle maintenance tasks
  • Truck owner-operators supply one or more drivers for the vehicle driven
  • Truck owner-operators are responsible for covering the costs of fuel, supplies, repairs, personal expenses on the part of the driver, and collision insurance
  • Workers’ comp for the owner-operator isn’t based on time or hours spent on the road, but instead on a percentage of lawfully published tariffs or rate schedules
  • Truck owner-operators work on a contract indicating that the owner-operator is an independent contractor as opposed to an employee of the trucking company
  • Truck owner-operators oversee the manner in which their vehicles are used to perform services in accordance with carrier operating procedures, shipping specifications, and regulatory requirements

The best way for truck owner-operators to secure workers’ comp coverage is to purchase their own insurance.

Employees Whose Employer Doesn’t Offer Coverage

Some employers choose not to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. If employees work for an employer that doesn’t have insurance, they can still seek compensation in the event of a work-related injury or illness via other channels.

For example, employees can report their employer to the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, which works to ensure that employers purchase workers’ compensation insurance. According to Iowa law, all employers in the state need to purchase this insurance, which provides much-needed protection to employees. Employers with workers’ compensation coverage can also give new job candidates incentive to apply, making this beneficial to them as well.

Enforcing the Iowa law regarding workers’ comp benefits employees who are injured on the job, but it also helps protect other employers who follow the law through fair and law-abiding practices. Otherwise, employers adhering to the law could suffer when competing against other businesses that don’t pay for workers’ comp insurance.

The Importance of Workers’ Compensation Insurance

If an employee is unable to obtain workers’ comp benefits through an employer for any reason, there are alternatives. In some cases, employees may need to pay for their own workers’ comp insurance, but this can be beneficial by ensuring employees are protected in the event of work-related personal injury or illness. Otherwise, not qualifying for workers’ comp can put employees at a serious disadvantage, particularly if they work in an environment where the risk of work-related accidents and injuries is higher.