A recent case from Cook County shines a light on injuries that take place in schools but outside school hours. A middle school science teacher endured a bad fall and a significant injury during an afterschool student-teacher basketball game. The teacher sued for workers’ compensation benefits, arguing that his participation in the game was “in the course of his employment.” Ultimately, the First District Appellate Court agreed with the teacher and reinstated an arbitrator’s award of benefits to the teacher.
The teacher in this case was teaching under the terms of a one-year contract. In March, his principal approached him about participating in an afterschool student-teacher basketball game, which was intended as a reward for certain students and a way of building rapport between students and faculty. He evaded the first few invitations, but, since he had not yet received a contract for the following year, nor had he received his performance evaluation, the teacher eventually decided that he should take part in order to enhance his standing with the principal.
Thus, he participated. During the game, the teacher fell awkwardly and fractured his forearm. The teacher submitted a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. He contended that, like other various extracurricular activities, this game was in the scope of his employment. The school district opposed the award, arguing that the game was a voluntarily recreational activity and that any teacher’s participation was strictly optional.
The workers’ compensation arbitrator and the Commission sided with the teacher, but a Cook County circuit court sided with the school. Ultimately, though, the Appellate Court determined that the arbitrator was correct in deciding that the game was within the bounds of the teacher’s employment and that he was entitled to benefits.
In Illinois, two things you have to prove in order to recover worker’s compensation benefits are that your injury took place in the course of your employment and that it arose out of your employment. Generally speaking, if you are partaking of events like a voluntary recreational activity, a picnic, or a party, any injury that occurs is not considered to be in the course of, or arising out of, your employment. This is not true, however, if your employer required you to participate in that event.
In this teacher’s case, the appeals court accepted the teacher’s arguments that the game was neither voluntary nor recreational for him. He was, in his own estimation, not a basketball player. He did not want to play and had evaded playing in previous games despite the principal’s requests. Had he not been concerned about the outcome of his upcoming performance review, as well as concerned about his professional future at the school, and had the principal not asked him to play multiple times, the teacher asserted that he never would have played. With that evidence on the record, it was reasonable for the arbitrator to rule that the teacher’s performance in the game was not a voluntary or recreational activity.
If you’ve been injured at work, you need legal counsel on your side who is familiar with the workers’ compensation system and the law related to these issues. Your experienced attorneys can help you seek the benefits and other compensation you deserve. The determined Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck have been representing injured people and their loved ones for many years and are ready to help you with your case. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.
More Blog Posts:
Illinois Courts Rule in Favor of Firefighter Injured in the Line of Duty, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Dec. 29, 2016
Injured Illinois Worker Fights Back Against Defense’s Failure to Disclose Insurance Policy Limit, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Dec. 23, 2016