The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a marketing employee was entitled to workers compensation after injuring himself during a Greenville company’s kickball game.
In a 3-2 ruling, the justices determined Stephen Whigham’s injury was covered under workers comp laws because he had organized the game as part of his job. Whigham worked for the Greenville office of Jackson Dawson Communications, a marketing/public relations firm. According to court testimony, he came up with the idea of a kickball game as a team-building exercise for employees. During the game, Whigham shattered two bones in his leg while trying to avoid being tagged out.
He underwent two surgeries and told the court he will ultimately need a knee replacement. He had appealed after the Workers Compensation Commission ruled in 2012 that the injury did not arise out of or in the course of Whigham’s employment because his participation was not required.
However the majority sided with Whigham, saying he was “impliedly required” to attend an event he had organized for his coworkers.
“Whigham’s participation was expected rather than voluntary,” Justice Kay Hearn wrote for the majority. “This fact sets Whigham’s participation apart from that of all the other employees. It is undisputed that Whigham felt compelled to go and his boss would have considered it a dereliction of duty to miss it.”
The dissenting judges argued that, while Whigham’s attendance may have been expected at the kickball game, that did not require him to participate.
“Attending the event and participating in the kickball game are entirely different things,” Justice John Kittredge wrote.
The Workers Compensation Commission
will now hold another hearing at a later date to determine how much Whigham should be paid for his injury.