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Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Law

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in Compensation and Benefits,Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

The state’s workers’ compensation system protects employees who are injured on the job by replacing lost wages while they recover. The Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry (www.dli.mn.gov/WC/Employer.asp) administers the law.

The system works as a no-fault guarantee. Employees who can show they were hurt while working can receive a portion of their earnings and paid medical care for their injuries. They needn’t prove that their employer was negligent. In exchange for the no-fault guarantee, workers can’t sue for negligence and collect far more than just lost wages and medical payments.

In some situations, employees aren’t eligible for workers’ comp payments. For example, they can’t collect benefits if the injury:

  • Is not accidental within the meaning of the law (intentional acts of co-workers are considered accidental since the injured worker could not have anticipated them in the normal course of work).
  • Did not arise out of employment.
  • Did not occur in the course of employment.

What if the employee was drinking or using drugs when the injury occurred? The employer isn’t necessarily off the hook. The employer may use alcohol or drug use as a defense only if it can prove the employee was impaired at the time the injury occurred. The employee’s intoxication must be the proximate cause of the accident in order to deny benefits.

Further, unlike in many other states, employers are always responsible for the negligent actions of fellow employees when they’re acting within the scope of their jobs. Employers may not use the so-called “fellow servant” rule as a defense.

Under the Minnesota’s workers’ comp law, employers are held accountable for a variety of workplace injuries: for instance, those that occur in common areas of the workplace, such as parking lots, driveways and entrance roads.

Covered employers

Virtually all Minnesota businesses must carry workers’ compensation insurance. Employers that wish to self-insure must apply to the state for permission to do so. Partners and sole proprietors are not required to carry workers’ comp coverage but may opt in to the program.

Tips for reducing workers’ comp costs

One way to reduce your workers’ compensation costs is to encourage employees to return to work as soon as they are able.

For example, you can make available light-duty positions for injured employees who may not be ready to return to more demanding jobs. Work with your insurance carrier to develop a light-duty program.

ADA, FMLA and workers’ compensation

Employees injured at work may also be disabled under the ADA or the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) and have a serious health condition under the FMLA. So, make sure you coordinate any unpaid leave and reasonable accommodations, such as light-duty work or intermittent leave, in handling ADA, MHRA and FMLA claims with the insurance carrier.

Nothing will sink a case faster than evidence that an employer acquiesced to a workers’ comp claim but refused to allow an FMLA claim for the same condition.

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