Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Volunteer Worker Injured on Church Property Not Eligible for Workers’ Compensation
Key point 8-07.2. All states have enacted workers' compensation laws to provide benefits to employees who are injured or become ill in the course of their employment. Benefits generally are financed through insurance premiums paid by employers. Churches are subject to workers' compensation laws in most states.

A Kansas court ruled that a volunteer worker who was injured while removing a tree from church property was not an employee of the church and therefore was not eligible for workers' compensation benefits. A church board agreed to cut down two large trees on the church's property that were hanging over a neighbor's property. The church could not afford to pay someone to remove the trees, so a board member rounded up about 15 people to help cut down and remove the trees. Several people brought their own chainsaws to help with the project. One of the volunteers (the "victim") was a board member's son, and the board member asked him if he would use his truck to pull a trailer to haul away the wood. The board selected the day the trees would be removed. The church provided lunch for the workers that day. The board told the victim that he could have the wood since he was hauling it away.

The first day, the victim and the rest of the group cut down the trees and removed the wood. The victim was the only person who received the wood from the felled trees. While the board member told the workers to cut the trees down, he did not tell them how to do it or how to cut up the tree branches. No one from the church gave any training to the victim on how to cut down the trees. The board member later testified that his son was not an employee of the church at any time. The church did not provide any of the chainsaws or equipment.

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