Like most other states, Minnesota’s workers’ compensation laws provide a system of insurance to the employee, at the employer’s expense, for job-related injuries, including disability and death. Under this system, the worker receives “coverage” for medical expenses and lost wages regardless of fault. Because it is a no-fault system, the employee receives worker’s compensation coverage without having to prove negligence on the part of the employer. In return, the employer is shielded from civil tort liability for injuries that occur on-the-job. In this way, workers’ compensation laws protect the interests of both employees and employers.
This chapter outlines the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act, which provides the framework for the workers' compensation system in Minnesota.
Nearly every person working in Minnesota is covered by the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act (MWCA). With very limited exception, all Minnesota employers must provide workers’ compensation (WC) coverage for all of their employees, including seasonal and part-time workers. Under the provisions of the MWCA, an “employer” is generally defined as an individual or business that hires an individual to perform services. This broad definition means that nonprofit corporations, unincorporated businesses, and even employers with only one employee, must comply with the MWCA’s requirements.
Under the MWCA, “employee” is also defined broadly. An employee is any individual who performs services for another, for hire, and the definition includes minors, part-time workers, and workers who are not citizens. This does not include independent contractors. An independent contractor is one who, while exercising independent employment, contracts to do a piece of work without being subject to the control of an “employer.” Typically this means that the independent contractor, unlike an employee, has the right to exercise control over the time, manner, and method of the work to be performed and is typically paid a set per job or per-unit sum, as opposed to a salary.
As established by Minnesota law, the factors to be considered in determining whether a particular relationship is that of employer-employee or independent contractor are:
Whether some or all of these factors exist in any given situation is not controlling. The primary determinant is the degree of control over the work to be completed. The existence of the right to control is significant, irrespective of whether that right to control is actually exercised.
As stated previously, all employers must ensure that their employees’ workers’ compensation claims will be paid at no expense to the employee. An employer satisfies this responsibility in one of the following ways:
Regardless of which method the employer chooses, it is required by law to post, in a prominent and easily accessible place, at its primary place of business and at its sites of employment, a notice containing the name, address, and telephone number of the appropriate party to address regarding workers’ compensation claims or to request information. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry provides free, downloadable posters for employers to use in satisfying their posting requirements, and the poster is available at:
In determining how much an employer will be charged for its workers’ compensation insurance, many factors are considered, including the employer’s loss experience rating, annual employee payrolls, and employee class codes. The greater the losses experienced by an employer in regard to injured workers, the greater the employees’ payroll total, and the greater the degree of risk of injury calculated by the classes assigned to employees, the greater the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance premium will be.
One of the most effective ways that employers can decrease their workers’ compensation insurance premiums is to work with and educate employees about safety in the workplace in an effort to reduce the number of claims that will be made against the employer. Another, often overlooked, mechanism is for employers to also work with injured employees to find a way to help get the employee back to work (even if in a different or accommodated position) as soon as is medically practical for the employee.
Any “injury” to an employee arising in the course of and related to employment is compensable. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry defines what constitutes an “injury” broadly to include any condition that is caused, aggravated, or accelerated by employment activities. An injury does not have to arise from an accident and can also encompass an illness or a disease. For example, employees exposed through work to a serious risk of contracting a contagious disease have been “injured” for purposes of receiving compensation. An injury also does not have to be pinpointed to a specific event or definable incident to be held to arise out of employment when there is a causal connection between the conditions required by the work and the resulting injury. In order to receive workers’ compensation coverage, the employee need only demonstrate that the employment activities were a substantial contributing factor to the disability, illness, or need for medical care. Coverage begins on the date of hire.
Note: Employees with COVID-19 are considered to have contracted the virus in the course of their employment and are thereby eligible for coverage under Minnesota’s workers’ compensation regulations.
Beginning in 2019, Minnesota has created a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) presumption for an employee who was employed on active duty as:
If an employee in one of the listed occupations is diagnosed with a mental impairment under paragraph (d) (PTSD according to DSM-V) and has not been diagnosed with PTSD previously, then the PTSD is presumptively an occupational disease that is presumed to have been due to the nature of employment
In certain cases where an employee is injured while on-the-job, an employer will not be responsible for payment of workers’ compensation benefits. The following provide some examples of such instances:
Employers are responsible for all medical treatment received for injuries sustained while the employee was on-the-job, even if there is no wage loss. This includes, among other things, surgical and medical services, services rendered by duly-licensed practitioners, medicine and supplies, orthopedic appliances, and prostheses. An employer that refuses to pay an employee’s legitimate medical bills is subject to penalties for nonpayment.
In addition to the payment of medical benefits, there are also several categories of wage loss benefits that an employee or the employee’s survivors may receive under the MWCA. These may be summarized as follows:
For both temporary total disability and permanent total disability, Minnesota law imposes a waiting period before benefits can be paid. No benefits are allowed for the three calendar days after the disability commenced, nor in any case unless the employer has actual knowledge of the injury or is notified of the injury. If the disability continues for 10 calendar days or longer, the benefit is computed from the commencement of the disability.
Once an injured employee’s claim for workers' compensation benefits is accepted, the insurer (or the employer, if it self-insures) must start paying benefits within 14 days of the day the employer was first informed of the employee’s injury and lost wages. After the initial payment, the insurer must pay any continuing benefits on the same interval that the injured employee was previously paid wages.
An insurer or self-insured employer that issues more than three benefit payments more than three business days late can be assessed for penalties for making late payments. Any penalties that are assessed become payable to the injured employee, and the amount of the penalties are determined by the length of delay and amount of benefits delayed. The range of available penalties is between 6% and 30% of the amount delayed.
Wage loss benefits can be stopped for a number of reasons, including situations when an employer/insurer has evidence that the employee has returned to work at wages equal to or more than the earnings level prior to the injury, or if the employer/insurer has paid all maximum amounts due for the category of benefits available to the worker.
Whenever an employer/insurer intends to stop payment of workers' compensation benefits, the employer/insurer must send the employee a written Notice of Intention to Discontinue Benefits form. If the employee disagrees with the employer/insurer’s determination that benefits can be stopped, the employee then has the right to contact the Office of Administrative Hearings and request that a conference be held to determine whether the employee has an ongoing right to benefits.
Injured employees in Minnesota are free to choose their own doctor for treatment of a work-related injury or illness. There are only three defined instances in which an employer may require an employee to see a health care provider designated by the employer, and those are:
Once a job-related injury occurs, the employee is required to notify the employer immediately of the injury (or as soon as possible if emergency medical care is necessary) and provide the employer with accurate and complete information about how the injury occurred and what injuries resulted.
Employers are then required to complete a First Report of Injury form within 10 days from its first knowledge and provide that report to its insurer. If the employee’s disability lasts for more than three calendar days, the employer must also file the First Report of Injury form with the Department of Labor and Industry and provide a copy of the form to the employee’s union, if there is one. The employer must also give the injured employee a copy of the First Report of Injury form, as well as copy of the Minnesota Workers' Compensation System Employee Information Sheet, which is available at:
If the injury results in the employee filing a worker’s compensation claim, the insurer (or employer, if self-insured) must evaluate the claim and file a written Notice of Insurer’s Primary Liability Determination (NOPLD) form indicating whether the insurer accepts or denies the claim. A copy of the NOPLD form is available at:
Once completed, a copy of the form must be given the employee claimant.
If the claim is accepted, the employee becomes eligible for the wage loss benefits, medical benefits, or rehabilitation benefits appropriate in response to the claim. If the claim is denied, the NOPLD form must clearly state and explain the reasons for the denial.
If the employee disagrees with the denial of the claim, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) encourages the employee to contact the assigned insurance claims adjuster to discuss potential resolution of the disagreement through informal means. If a conversation with the claims adjuster does not resolve the employee’s dispute, the employee may contact the DLI’s Alternative Dispute Resolution specialists and utilize the DLI’s medical services for resolution of workers' compensation claims.
An employee who disagrees with a claim denial can also elect to forego informal resolution mechanisms and instead, file an Employee’s Claim Petition with the DLI.
If the employee’s request for WC benefits is denied by the employer or its insurance carrier, the employee has three years from the date of injury to file a claim petition. In occupational disease cases, injury/disability must occur within 300 weeks from the date of last employment in an occupation in which the employee had exposure to a hazard, and a petition must be filed no later than three years from the date of injury/disability.
Failure to file a petition on a timely basis may result in forfeiture of the employee’s right to benefits.
Workers’ compensation petitions are normally assigned to a workers’ compensation judge by the Bureau according to the county in which the employee lives. Employees may represent themselves in WC proceedings, but a non-attorney cannot represent them. If the employee hires an attorney, the fee agreement must be approved by a WC judge or the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board.
A workers’ compensation judge hears evidence presented by both the employer/insurer and the claimant at one or more hearings which may be extended by the need to obtain medical evidence and hear other witnesses. The workers’ compensation judge will schedule the case for mediation, unless the judge concludes it would be futile. If this mediation does not take place or lead to settlement, the parties may at any time ask for an informal conference or settlement conference with a workers’ compensation judge. A written decision is circulated to involved parties after a case is closed (all evidence has been submitted and the judge has everything necessary to render a decision). No further action is taken. Either party has 20 days from the date the workers’ compensation judge’s decision is circulated to all parties to file an appeal with the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board and then to the Commonwealth Court.
Employees have the right to make a good faith workers’ compensation claim and cannot be fired, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against for filing a good faith claim.