By Frank Harty
Many employers like to involve family members in workplace events. Annual family fairs, bring your child to work days, and other similar events are popular morale builders. For Iowa employers, these activities just became riskier.
In Galloway v. State of Iowa, the Iowa Supreme Court held that pre-injury waivers of, or releases of an organization from, liability for a child's injury executed by a parent as a condition of the child's participation in an educational activity or field trip are void and unenforceable as a matter of public policy. Relying on statutes that prohibit Iowa parents from settling a minor's lawsuit without court authorization, the Iowa Supreme Court described the public policy in Iowa as "well established" that children must be protected from the improvident decisions of their parents.
Iowa employers will now be forced to reconsider what, if any, activities they sponsor for employee family members.
It appears the Iowa legislature will take action to address this decision. In the meantime, however, Iowa employers should consider including hold harmless provisions in releases. That way if a child sues, an employer can sue the parent-employee for indemnification.