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Does Signing an Employment Application Mean I’m Covered by Workers’ Compensation?


A critical feature of workers’ compensation in Iowa is that it provides an “exclusive remedy” to a worker injured on the job. Here is what this means in practice. Normally, when you are hurt due to someone else’s negligence you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit. But with a work-related injury, you lose the right to file such a lawsuit against your employer–you can only receive medical, wage replacement, and permanent disability benefits through workers’ compensation.

Iowa Court Dismisses Ex-Staffing Agency Employee’s Lawsuit Against Customer

Workers’ compensation may also cover situations where you work as a temporary employee for a staffing agency. In fact, the Iowa Court of Appeals recently addressed this subject. In this case, Cupps v. S&J Tube, Inc., the plaintiff was referred to an employer via a staffing agency. The agency required the plaintiff to sign an employment application, a document that included the following statement:

I acknowledge and agree that even though my work related activities may be under the control and direction of the Customer, my sole legal remedies in the event of a work related injury will be the Company’s workers’ compensation insurance and will not include any claim for damage against that Customer.

The plaintiff signed the application, and the agency subsequently assigned him to one of its customers, who is the defendant in this case. After working as a temporary welder for this customer for some time, the plaintiff gave his one-week notice of resignation. Near the end of his last scheduled day of work, the plaintiff was carrying some gear back to his car when he “slipped, fell, and was injured” outside the customer’s building.

The staffing agency paid the plaintiff workers’ compensation benefits for the accident, as he was still “on the clock” at the time of the slip-and-fall. But the plaintiff later filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, alleging its negligence caused his accident. In court, the defendant asserted workers’ compensation provided the plaintiff with an exclusive remedy for his injuries.

In response, the plaintiff maintained the employment application he signed with the staffing agency did not create a legally binding contract, that the clause relieving the customer of any damages was invalid, and that the plaintiff’s injury was not in fact “work-related.”

The Court of Appeals rejected all of the plaintiff’s arguments and affirmed a lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment to the defendant. First, while the job application itself did not create a contract, the plaintiff’s acceptance of an assignment with the customer did. Second, the language described above was “clear and unequivocal” with respect to the plaintiff’s acknowledgment that his “sole remedy” for a work-related injury was workers’ compensation. Finally, the “undisputed facts” of the case showed the injury itself occurred while the plaintiff was working for the customer.

Get Advice from an Iowa Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Workers’ compensation provides employees with certain benefits while limiting their legal rights in other aspects. It is easy to get confused by how the law does, or does not, apply to your situation. So if you have been injured in any type of accident and need advice from a qualified Southeast Iowa Workers’ Compensation Attorney, contact the Noyes Law Office, P.C., today.


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