The Illinois Industrial Commission Awarded Benefits To Teacher Who Was Injured In The Student/Faculty Basketball Game

The Commission held that claimant, who was injured while playing in a student/faculty basketball game, was entitled to benefits, where evidence indicated that the event was promoted by the school, that the school benefited from the game, which took place during school hours on the premises, and that participation in such games was taken into consideration during faculty performance reviews.

Claimant, a teacher, was approached by the school coach and asked to participate in a student/faculty basketball game at school. Claimant told the coach that he did not feel he could participate in the game because of a prior left knee injury. The coach asked him to play four more times but claimant still refused. Claimant finally agreed to play four more times but claimant still refused. Claimant finally agreed to play based on the assurance that he would to play only four minutes. Shortly after the game started, he collided with a student while attempting to rebound the basketball.

The coach testified that if a teacher did not participate, he had to sit with his students and watch the game. The coach further stated that a teacher’s participation the game was voluntary. The game was approved by the principal and the athletic director. The assistant principal testified that she encouraged the faculty to be a part of the game and that she expected the teachers to be supportive of the game. In fact, if a teacher was asked to participate and refused, it was mentioned in the employee evaluation as an indication of lack of student support or support for school activities. The arbitrator found the claimant failed to prove he sustained compensable injuries.

The Commission reversed and awarded benefits, specifically finding that claimant’s participation in the game did no qualify as voluntary recreational activity pursuant to section 11 of the Workers’ Compensation Act but rather arose out of and within the course of his employment. The Commission likened the game to a school play production or a school band concert. The student/faculty basketball game was promoted by the school coach, advertised

through a faculty memo drafted by the assistant principal, announced over the public address system and sanctioned by the athletic director and the principal. In addition, defendant conceded that the school benefited from the event, as it encouraged the eighth grade basketball team in preparation for the upcoming season, boosted school morale and improved student/faculty relations. Furthermore, the game took place during the school year, on school premises and during school hours.

The Commission further found that claimant’s participation in the game was not a voluntary leisure activity. Claimant tried to refuse participation in the game due to prior problems with his left knee and was prompted by professional pressure from his colleagues,. The Commission relied on testimony from the assistant principal, who stated that participation in school activities was taken into consideration during faculty performance reviews.