by | Feb 3, 2024

In a recent holding from the Commissioner in Driscoll v. City of Cedar Rapids, the Commissioner overturned a previous finding that an employee’s adverse reaction to a COVID-19 vaccine was a compensable injury.

The initial Deputy decision found that the employee was “strongly” encouraged by his employer to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the height of the pandemic. Since the employer “strongly” encouraged the employee to get the vaccine, any side effects from the vaccine were found to arise out of and in the course of employment.

On appeal, the Commissioner overruled the Deputy. The Commissioner found that there is no statutory basis for the “strongly” encouraged standard created by the Deputy. The Commissioner found that since the employer encouraged the employee to get the COVID-19 vaccination, obtaining the vaccine would be ‘in the course of employment.’ However, the Commissioner found that any adverse side effects from the vaccination did not ‘arise out of’ the employment with the City of Cedar Rapids. The Commissioner found that there was no causal connection between the employee’s job, and the adverse side effects that were experienced.

In dicta, the Commissioner explained that if the employer had mandated that the employee obtain the vaccine, the analysis may be different. However, the employer in Driscoll had no such mandate, and obtaining the vaccine was entirely voluntary. The employee could choose where to obtain the vaccine and could choose from one of the three vaccines available at the time. Without any additional evidence of a causal connection between the adverse side effect and the employment, the Commissioner found that the injury was not compensable.

The decision in Driscoll was appealed to the District Court and is working its way up on appeal. If you have questions regarding compensable side effect injuries, or workers’ compensation more generally, please feel free to contact Micah Hawker-Boehnke or Paul Barta at (402) 475-1075.