Workers’ compensation for a kickball injury: Discussing a recent South Carolina Supreme Court ruling
When injured on the job, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation to help you pay for expenses connected with your injury, including medical bills and the effects of disability. But what does getting injured on the job mean? What kinds of injuries could it include?
Typically, we think of employees sustaining these injuries while carrying out work-related tasks for their employers. A construction worker who falls off of scaffolding, a store clerk who slips on a wet floor while stocking shelves, or an office worker who develops carpal tunnel syndrome may all be eligible for workers’ comp.
But it isn’t always clear whether an injury is work-related. Sometimes, people might sustain an injury while doing something connected with their workplace, but it isn’t clear if it’s a required work duty performed for their employer’s benefit.
What about a company kickball game?
Recently, South Carolina’s Supreme Court ruled on a case involving a man who was injured during a company kickball game. Apparently, he had fallen and broken two bones in his leg, requiring two surgeries; doctors also predicted that he’ll need to undergo knee replacement.
Initially, his workers’ comp claim was rejected. But ultimately, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in his favor. What was their reasoning?
- The kickball game took place on a Friday afternoon and was generally considered a voluntary event for employees. But the man who got injured had organized the game and was expected to be there. (Both he and his employer testified that his participation wouldn’t be considered voluntary.)
- Because his participation wasn’t voluntary, it could be construed as a professional duty.
- His employer benefited from this kickball game because it was meant as a morale-boosting, team-building exercise to improve employee performance. (Whether or not this could be considered a benefit to an employer was debated, because it’s a relatively vague goal, not easily measured.)
- Even though the man who got injured didn’t have “managing team-building exercises” listed as part of his official job duties, the court ruled that people don’t need to be injured in the course of a typical job duty in order to seek workers’ comp.
If you sustain an injury in connection with your work, it’s important to contact an attorney. Even if you think the injury didn’t take place as a direct result of your work duties, you might still be eligible for workers’ comp. As this recent South Carolina Supreme Court ruling shows us, professional duties can include occasions that seem more recreational in nature or disconnected from your typical duties on the job.