The “Going and Coming Rule” in Iowa

by | Nov 30, 2015

As you may know, a compensable work injury must arise out of and in the course of employment. However, there are special rules which apply if an injury occurs when an employee is going to or coming from work. As a general rule, injuries which occur during these times are not compensable unless it is determined that a distinct causal connection exists between an employer-created condition and the occurrence of the injury. In contrast to the general rule, there are a number of exceptions which place the employee within the course and scope of employment—creating liability for the employer. Such exceptions include:

The Traveling Employee Exception

Under this exception, if an employee is required to travel—and an accident/injury occurs when such employee is so engaged—the accident arises out of and in the course of his or her employment. This is because traveling employees are regarded as acting in the course of their employment during the entire period of travel on the employer’s business. However, if it is shown that the accident occurred while on a trip which served a personal purpose, the employee may be removed from the course of employment.

The Special Errand Exception

If an employee is on a special errand or mission for his or her employer at the time of the injury, the injury is held to have arisen in the course of employment. In determining whether this exception applies, Iowa courts generally look to whose business (the employer’s or other) the employee was pursuing at the time of the injury.

The Dual Purpose Exception

Under this exception, an injury during a trip which serves both a business and personal purpose is within the course of employment if the trip involves the performance of a service for the employer which would have caused the trip to be taken by someone else even if it had not coincided with the personal injury.

The Personal Comfort Exception

Under certain circumstances, some acts will be considered to have arisen out of the course of employment when the employee is tending to a matter of personal discomfort. These incidents can include leaving the employer’s premises to obtain food or drink; to smoke; or to use bathroom facilities. So long as the employee is not acting in conflict with specific instructions from the employer and he or she is engaging in an activity which would normally be expected under the conditions of work, it is possible that the employee will remain within the scope of employment.  However, it should be noted that the Iowa courts have viewed these cases with a skeptical eye and do not always hold that injuries arising out of actions for personal comfort are compensable.

The Employer-Supplied Transportation Exception

In instances where the employer furnishes transportation to the employee to and from work, an injury during such a trip is held to arise out of the course of employment. When the employer furnishes the employee with either travel expenses or a company vehicle, an employee’s injury occurring while using a substitute mode of transportation does not change the injury’s compensability.

For any questions regarding the “Going and Coming Rule,” or its exceptions under Iowa Workers’ Compensation law, please do not hesitate to contact Iowa Workers’ Compensation Attorney Paul Barta at or Michael Sands at