Injuries while volunteering may not be compensable

Group 152

Table of Contents

Volunteering your time can be one of the most rewarding things you can do. Despite your unselfish act, if you get injured while volunteering, it is possible you may not be able to receive the help you need.

Minnesota workers’ compensation is based on an employee-employer relationship. Under Minnesota work comp, an employer is any person who employs another to perform a service for hire, while an employee is any person who performs services for another for hire. Volunteers, who do not expect payment, are not covered under the Minnesota workers’ compensation act as they are not “employees.”

In determining whether an employer-employee relationship exists, the courts have looked at the following:

  1. Whether there was a contract for hire, express or implied;
  2. Whether the parties contemplated the payment of wages or other compensation for the services rendered; and
  3. Whether the services were performed at the specific direction or request of the employer.


Incidentally, the legislature has allowed certain volunteers to be considered employees under the Minnesota workers’ compensation act.

  • An officer of a political subdivision elected or appointed for a regular term of office, or to complete the unexpired portion of a regular term, shall be included only after the governing body of the political subdivision has adopted an ordinance or resolution to that effect;
  • a volunteer in state institutions under the commissioners of human services and corrections;
  • a volunteer in emergency management;
  • a volunteer in a program established by a local social services agency;
  • a volunteer accepted by the commissioner of natural resources;
  • a volunteer in the building and construction industry who renders services for joint labor-management nonprofit community service projects;
  • a volunteer accepted by the director of the Minnesota Historical Society;
  • a volunteer, other than a student, who renders services at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf or the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind;
  • a volunteer, other than a resident of the veterans home, who renders services at a Minnesota veterans home;
  • a volunteer ambulance driver or attendant services is an employee of the political subdivision, nonprofit hospital, nonprofit corporation, or other entity for which the worker performs the services;
  • a volunteer, accepted by the commissioner of administration, rendering services at the Department of Administration;
  • a volunteer rendering service directly to the Pollution Control Agency;
  • a volunteer as a first responder or as a member of a law enforcement assistance organization while acting under the supervision and authority of a political subdivision;
  • a volunteer of the civil air patrol rendering service on the request and under the authority of the state or any of its political subdivisions;
  • a Minnesota Responds Medical Reserve Corps volunteer, responding at the request of or engaged in training conducted by the commissioner of health.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are being denied benefits on the basis of being a “volunteer”, it may be in your best interests to consult an attorney.