Huber, Book, Lanz & McConkey, PLLC

Violation of Work Rule

At the time the worker was injured, he/she was in violation of a work rule. Can the employer and insurance carrier deny the injury based upon the violation of work rule defense?

Maybe. The Iowa Supreme Court held that a carpenter forfeited his right to benefits under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act by engaging in conduct that violated the instructions of the employer. Buehner v. Hauptly, 161 N.W.2d 170, 171 (Iowa 1968). According to the facts of that case, the carpenter was repeatedly instructed by his job foreman to refrain from riding on a hoist that was designed to haul lumber and materials. Unfortunately, the carpenter decided to ride the hoist to the ground and was fatally injured. The Court held: “Under all the facts the deceased employee’s act in attempting to descend by means of the hoist was not only in direct violation of an enforced employer’s rule, but completely rash and outside the reasonable requirements of his job.” Accordingly, the Court held that the fatal injury did not arise out of and in the course of his employment.

If an employer and insurance carrier want to rely on this defense, they likely will need to prove the following: the work rule was in place at the time of the injury, prior to the injury the injured worker had been informed of the work rule, prior to the injury the injured worker or other employees had been disciplined for violating the work rule, the injured worker could not have avoided violating the work rule when performing his/her job duties, and that violation of the work rule was the cause of the injury.

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