Volunteers, Apprentices, and More: Eligible for Workers’ Comp?
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Volunteers, Apprentices, and More: Eligible for Workers’ Comp?

When you get injured while on a volunteer job or while working as an apprentice, your ability to receive workers’ compensation benefits is far from clear. We recommend that you talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible to determine your rights. The statutes and a few recent cases involving volunteers, volunteer funded labor, and apprentices show why you need legal help.


Volunteers are generally not eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits in Minnesota, with some specific exceptions. Unlike volunteers, employees perform services for another for hire. (Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 9.) When deciding whether a worker is a volunteer, courts ask if there was a contract for hire (express or implied), whether the parties planned to exchange wages or other benefits for services rendered, and whether the services were performed at the employer’s specific direction.

In Minnesota, there are a few important exceptions to the general workers’ compensation laws about volunteers. Particular types of volunteers can receive benefits. These volunteers will be discussed in a future blog.

Volunteer Funded Labor

In a somewhat similar situation, a court said that a worker participating in a “funded labor” program was not entitled to workers’ compensation for his injury. The worker was receiving welfare benefits through a county program. The program allowed him to keep receiving benefits after an unsuccessful employment search if he worked for 16 hours a week at specific public or nonprofit jobs. There was no agreement that he would receive pay for this work, besides the benefits. (Alcozer v. North Country Food Bank, et al., Minn. Workers Compensation Court of Appeals (2000).)

The court decided that the worker was not a “person who performed services for another for hire” or a “voluntary uncompensated worker participating in a program established by a local social services agency”. Both of these types of workers are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The worker here provided no evidence that he would have volunteered to work 16 hours a week if he had not been receiving benefits for it. As a result, he could not get workers’ comp.


People working in state-approved apprentice programs can receive wages at a special apprentice rate and can receive workers’ compensation benefits for work-related injuries during an apprenticeship. Specifically, the state requires that apprentices sign contracts with their sponsors regarding rate of pay, length of training, and skills to be learned. The state reviews and approves the contracts. If the apprentice is injured on the job, his wage-loss benefits will be based on the rate of pay listed in the contract. (See Juday v. East Central Elec. Ass’n et al., Minn. Workers Compensation Court of Appeals (1999).)

Unsure if you qualify to get workers’ compensation for your injury? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.