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Is Worker’s Compensation Available To Unpaid Volunteer Workers?

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2018 | Workers' Compensation

Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

While some see no point in doing a job if there is no pay in it for them, there are many individuals who dedicate their time to being a volunteer. These individuals dedicate their time and talent to projects to get them off the ground and make them successful. Without volunteers, many projects would never exist at all, likely due to a lack of funding to pay the people they need. However, while everyone from small non-profit groups to government entities utilize volunteer help for various projects, pay doesn’t make any difference in the safety of a job. Simply put, volunteers can get injured doing their work the same as a paid worker. However, the question is if they have that same access to worker’s compensation in Minnesota or not.

Minnesota Worker’s Compensation is for Employees

The unfortunate reality for injured volunteers is that it is very likely you will not be granted access to worker’s compensation for any injuries that occurred during a project. Under Minnesota law, the right to worker’s compensation must fill three general requirements.

  • The employee must be injured or have an occupational disease
  • The employee must have been hurt at work
  • The employee must have been hurt on the clock or at their job site

The issue with volunteers is that they do not technically classify as an “employee” under the law. There was no hiring process, there was no contract, and there is no agreement to pay. As such, volunteers are not afforded the same right to worker’s compensation under Minnesota law as even a part-time or temporary worker is.

Exceptions to the Rule For Volunteers

For injured volunteers, it is always best to consult with a lawyer first before giving up on potential worker’s compensation completely. There are some small exceptions to the general rule for an injured volunteer worker which allow them to collect worker’s compensation.


Volunteer work is rarely paid for with money. After all, it wouldn’t be volunteer work anymore if you were paid for it, not truly anyway. However, on some occasions, volunteer work may earn some form of remuneration. It could be a free meal for your help, certain amounts of swag, or even discounts could be given in return for help during a project or event. In that respect, this could be considered pay and may afford you a right to worker’s compensation since a person who is paid for service can be classified as an employee.

Emergency Volunteers

In times of crisis, volunteers can be crucial to the preparation and repair of damaging situations like severe weather or even terrorism events. Obviously, these situations are also the most dangerous situations to volunteer for. However, if you were injured as an emergency volunteer, you have the full right to file for worker’s compensation with the state for your service. Furthermore, this extends to emergency service workers like paramedics or firefighters that are technically off-duty, but still offer aid if they find themselves on the scene of an emergency only to help and end up injured.

Need Help? Contact Joshua Borken Today!

Were you volunteering your time for one of many great projects going on in Minnesota only to find yourself hurt? Depending on the nature of the work you were doing as a volunteer, you may still have a right to worker’s compensation. If your injuries were serious, it strongly behooves you to have a consultation before giving up on worker’s compensation rights completely. If you are injured, whether you are an employee or a volunteer, contact us today to see what the Law Office of Joshua Borken can do to help you.