Student/Teacher Basketball Game Injury, Teacher Can Receive Benefits

pick-up-basketball-gameA middle school science teacher was participating in an after school basketball game of students and teachers when he was injured in March of 2011. He filed for workers’ compensation benefits and was initially granted benefits. His employer appealed and the decision was reversed. Ultimately the Illinois Appellate Court decided that he should receive benefits because he was engaged in a work-related activity.

Jonathan Jordan was a middle school teacher and a professor at Triton College, he had two different employers. At the middle school, he testified that it was expected he attend outside activities like parent conferences and dances. Teachers were not given extra pay for attending these events, so he considered his attendance to be part of his employment. He was asked to participate in the student/teacher basketball games several times by the principal of the middle school but he had always pushed the request aside. He had never played before and said he was worried about a risk of injury. The third time he was asked he agreed to play, stating that since he had not yet signed a contract for the next school year he worried that by refusing to play again it would put him in bad standing with his principal and he might not have a contract the next year. Parents were not required to attend the game and so it fell on the teachers to be responsible for students if something happened.

At the game he was injured when he jumped up and then fell after a student ran by him. He broke his left forearm and had surgery. He went through physical therapy and continued to see his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Park. He was released at maximum medical improvement in January 2012. Jordan was not given a contract for the next school year. He still reports pain and some limited movement, though he works as a teacher at another school.

An arbitrator awarded him benefits, saying that his injury arose in the course and scope of his employment. They claimed he was reasonable in thinking participation in the game fell under part of his job duties, and awarded him temporary total disability benefits from the time he was injured until the time he was released back to light duty work. He was also awarded permanent partial disability for 50.6 weeks for the 20% loss of use of his arm that he experienced.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission upheld that when the employer asked for a review. When the employer filed a petition in the circuit court of Cook County the benefits were denied, on the grounds that Mr. Jordan was playing in a “voluntary recreational program” and it was not related to his employment. When Mr. Jordan appealed his benefits were reinstated.

Here is the opinion of the Illinois Appellate Court.

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