Understanding “Arising Out of and in the Course of Employment” in Minnesota Workers' Compensation Law


It is important for employees to independently understand when they have a workers compensation claim, because employers and insurers may or may not provide them with reliable information on that topic. Minnesotans are entitled to workers compensation benefits when they sustain injuries "arising out of and in the course of employment." That phrase can broadly be grouped into three requirements, each of which is discussed more fully below.

Defining “Employment”

In general, an employment relationship exists when a person is performing a service for another with the expectation of payment. However, there are several types of employment relationships that are excluded from workers compensation coverage. For example, casual employees and independent contractors are excluded from coverage.

Defining "In the Course of Employment"

It is most simple and clear that an employee is “in the course of employment” when he or she is at the workplace, clocked in, and working. On the other hand, an employee is generally not in the course of employment during the commute from home to work, and vice versa (not at the workplace, not clocked in, and not working). There can be gray area where some, but not all of those three things are true. An employee that is not clocked in and is at the workplace for personal reasons is likely not in the course of employment, whereas an employee that is not clocked in but is nonetheless at the workplace and working is likely to be in the course of employment.

Defining "Arising Out of Employment"

The phrase “arising out of” is essentially a causation requirement. There must be something about the work environment that caused or contributed to the injury. When an employee sustains a back injury as a result of lifting a box, the injury likely arises out of employment both because the employee likely had some obligation to lift the box, and because the box itself is a part of the employment environment. Conversely, if an employee is clocked in, at the workplace, working, and suffers a heart attack, the injury most often will not arise out of employment. In most cases, the heart attack will turn out to be the result of a disease process that by chance manifested during working hours, but was not caused by the work environment.

Employee Rights and Responsibilities

Under the Minnesota Workers Compensation Act, injured workers are entitled to medical benefits, rehabilitation, wage replacement benefits, permanent partial disability benefits, attorney fees, and dependency benefits. While a several other articles could be written about the extent of each benefit type, it suffices to say that they provide a very significant safety net for the injured worker. In order to maintain eligibility for those benefits, the injured worker has a number of responsibilities. The injured worker must timely report the injury to the employer, follow reasonable medical recommendations, attempt to return to work when medically appropriate, and cooperate with independent medical examinations. It is important that injured workers familiarize themselves with the general rules of this benefit system early on, in order to avoid inadvertently running afoul of those rules.


Minnesota workers are entitled to workers compensation benefits when they sustain injuries "arising out of and in the course of employment." It is important for injured workers to understand when they have injuries that are work-related, as defined above. It is also important that they understand their rights and responsibilities in the workers compensation system. When in doubt, it may be wise to consult a Minnesota workers compensation lawyer.

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