Iowa Professional Employees Workers’ Compensation
Fast Facts on Workers’ Compensation for Professional Employees
- Professionals have unique claims
Workers’ compensation has a reputation as a field relating to manual labor occupations. However, nurses, doctors, and health care professionals work in settings with rigorous physical requirements exposing them to a variety of injuries. Production managers and supervisors in manufacturing and warehouse settings are exposed to many of the same hazards of other workers in those facilities. Salespersons and executives frequently travel and can suffer injuries in car accidents or from other travel hazards. Office workers and other business professionals may be assaulted by customers or suffer injuries while moving office supplies or equipment. There are, in fact, numerous settings where “white-collar” workers experience serious work injuries. These cases present very specialized legal issues. Below is a summary of some of the themes associated with work injuries in professional occupations. For more information about workers’ compensation, see Iowa Workers’ Compensation Law Fast Facts.
- Rate issues with professionals
Managers and executives are compensated not only with salaries or wages, but also with bonuses, commissions, and other performance incentives. When determining what income to use in calculating workers’ compensation benefits, examine all income sources to determine if the employee’s regular and customary earnings are factored into his or her rate. These omissions result in significant benefit underpayments. If left uncorrected, this could result in the injured professional employee losing out on substantial amounts of monetary benefits.
- Determining Industrial Loss
Physical injuries can be undercompensated when determining the extent of a business worker’s loss of earning capacity. While managers and supervisors may have less physically demanding jobs than the employees they supervise, there are often physical demands that must be met by the worker. The employer must make accommodations that allow the professional worker to continue working. Often the physical limitations resulting from work injuries, along with the educational background and work history of the profession, are either glossed over or used against the professional in determining his or her entitlement to permanent disability benefits. Analyze the business worker or supervisor’s injury and overall earning capacity implications based on the specific circumstances of his or her employment and profession.
- When work and social activities overlap
The line between a professional employee’s work life and private life can become blurred. When is an outing with clients purely a social engagement and when is it a networking opportunity? If there is a basis for showing the activity provides a meaningful benefit to the employer, injuries sustained at these outings can be covered under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act.
- Mental injuries from stress and pressure at work
While there are regular stressors at most jobs, managers and professionals face intense pressure associated with their work. While Iowa law generally requires proof the mental injuries from work stress is unusual to similarly situated employees in the field, there are many examples of cases where specific stressors from work can meet the standard. Iowa’s courts have also recognized that a worker’s suicide, when related to extreme and unusual stress from work, can be deemed a work-related injury.
- Injuries sustained while traveling
Professional employees travel for seminars, conventions, in-person meetings with clients, and sales calls. When injuries are sustained, whether directly connected to the employee’s transportation to or from the event or from a hazard that arises while the employee is on the trip, the employee may be entitled to protections and benefits available to him or her under Iowa’s workers’ compensation laws.
- Trips to and from work and the “going and coming” rule
Generally, when a worker is injured on a commute to or from his or her regular work site, the injury is not covered by workers’ compensation law. Business workers who use a company vehicle, however, can be shown to have been in the course of their employment. Their company vehicle is provided with the understanding the employee engages in work-related travel on a regular basis and they may be expected to perform work activities and errands at any time.
- Many other issues can arise
The special issues presented in workers’ compensation law relating to professionals are too numerous to list. Because of the wide variety of work performed in fields not traditionally thought protected by workers’ compensation, have a qualified attorney review the facts of any case.