Teacher strikes out on claim for benefits for softball game injury
Case name: Costello v. Proviso West School District 209, 19 ILWCLB 91 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2011).
Ruling: The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission held that a teacher was not entitled to benefits for injuries sustained in a softball game.
What it means: In Illinois, an accidental injury occurring during a voluntary athletic event does not arise out of and in the course of employment unless the injured worker was ordered or assigned by the employer to participate.
A school teacher injured his left ankle while playing a game of softball between two teams of teachers. The teacher's supervisor testified that the purpose of the game was to have fun and build camaraderie with other departments. She also said that the school did not sponsor the game, no one was required to play, and there were no repercussions or reprimands for teachers who did not play. All teachers were paid whether or not they played. The teacher testified he agreed to participate because he felt pressured by his supervisor that if he did not go it would reflect negatively on his evaluation.
The arbitrator denied benefits. It could not be seriously argued that playing softball was the essence of the job of an English teacher or that the teacher's participation in the game was incidental to his employment. The teacher exercised his own free will at first in deciding not to play and again later when he changed his mind and decided to play. Upon review, the commission affirmed and adopted the decision of the arbitrator.
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September 6, 2011
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