IL Middle School Teacher’s Injury in Student/Faculty Basketball Game Was Compensable

A number of states, including Illinois, exclude workers’ compensation coverage for some recreational injuries that are deemed by statute to be outside the course and scope of the employment [see 820 ILCS 305/11 (West 2010); see also Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 22.02 et seq.]. Notwithstanding the statutory limitation, a state appellate court, in Calumet Sch. Dist. #132 v. Illinois Workers’ Comp. Comm’n, 2016 IL App (1st) 153034WC, 2016 Ill. App. LEXIS 774 (Nov. 10, 2016), recently held that an Illinois middle school science teacher, who suffered a left forearm fracture while participating in an after school student/teacher basketball game in the employer’s gymnasium, did not engage in a “voluntary recreational program,” as that term is used in the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act. The court found that the teacher had introduced sufficient evidence to show that he reasonably felt compelled by the school principal to participate in the game.

Teacher Was Under Not So Subtle Pressure to Join In Activity

The teacher testified all teachers were expected to attend and participate in after school activities involving student participation, such as open houses, parent/teacher conferences, dances, and performances, without additional compensation. He stated that he considered attendance at, and participation in, such activities to be a part of his job. He also testified that on three separate occasions the school principal asked him if he was planning to play in the game.

The teacher further testified that at the time of the conversations with the principal, he had not yet received a contract to teach for the next school year; nor had he received his annual performance review. The teacher stated that he was concerned that, if he refused to participate, he would get on the principal’s “bad side,” that he would not be viewed as a team player, and that it would negatively affect his performance review, even to the point that his contract might not be renewed. He testified that, although he was not ordered to participate in the basketball game, he felt pressured the third time the principal “cornered him.”

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