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A former probationary teacher at Calumet School District No. 132 who broke his arm while playing in an after-school basketball game with students, has been awarded workers’ compensation benefits for the injury following the decision of the Illinois Appellate Court in Calumet School District No. 132 v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2016 IL App (1st) 153034WC.

The issue before the appellate court was whether the teacher was injured in the course of his employment for the school district or whether he was injured while engaged in a “voluntary recreational program,” in which case his injury would not be compensable under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

The evidence showed that the school allowed students to play basketball in the gym after school to reward them for good behavior. The school principal encouraged (but did not require) teachers, including the teacher in this case, to play basketball with the students. The teacher claimed the school principal asked him on three separate occasions to participate in the basketball games. The teacher stated that he declined to play because he was afraid he would get injured, but said he finally relented because he was concerned that his refusal to participate would reflect negatively on his performance evaluation. The teacher testified that he understood that the teachers who played basketball were responsible for supervising the students and that he believed participating in after-school events was a part of his job as a teacher.

The appellate court determined that the teacher was acting in the course of his employment as a teacher when he was injured in the after-school basketball game. Although the teacher was not explicitly required to play in the game, the court found that his participation was not voluntary based on his testimony that he would not have played had he not been repeatedly pressured by the principal to participate and had he not been concerned that his refusal to participate would reflect negatively on his performance evaluation and his future employment with the school district.

For questions regarding on-the-job injuries to employees, contact Barb Erickson.