Workers' compensation is no stranger to stupid stories. Lord knows we have seen our fair share of inane dumbassery. This story – make that this court decision - would be one of them.
Last week the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled that a man who broke his ankle “running away from a co-worker” after playing a prank on him is entitled to workers' compensation benefits. The horseplay occurred at a construction site, and the man had apparently “tricked his co-worker into giving up his seat in an air-conditioned truck on a hot August day in 2012”.
The angry co-worker gave chase, and the prankster jumped over a trench, breaking his ankle in the process. The man's employer maintained they shouldn't have to pay benefits, since the company's rules bar horseplay. The man was initially denied benefits based on that argument.
But the high court said, “Whoooooaaaaa, Nellie!” to the horseplay argument. They ruled that horseplay wasn't a "substantial deviation" from the prankster's normal work and was indeed compensable.
Now, am I to assume that all construction workers' job descriptions should include “pranking” and “horseplay”? Is the Court saying all construction workers are pranksters? Or that normal construction is horseplay? Or that this worker's normal work was horseplay and the employer must pay for the failure to get rid of him before something like this happened?
So many questions, so little mind…
This seems, on the surface anyway, to be a rather shortsighted decision. I am not sure how you can comfortably fit horseplay into the normal course and scope of a construction workers' job. Perhaps it wasn't the horseplay, per se. Perhaps it was the running and jumping that the justices deemed as a normal part of the job. I'm sure lots of construction workers' run and jump, especially while being chased by angry co-workers. That must be it.
After all, if the horseplay-shoe fits, you must acquit. No sense closing the barn door once the horseplay is out. And if the prankster was a different ethnicity than his victim, would that be a horseplay of a different color? I could go on, but I don't want to look a gift horseplay in the mouth.
So, there we have it. Pranking and practical jokes that lead to injury are now compensable in the state of South Dakota. It's just part of the daily grind, the things we do to earn a living. Sounds pretty stupid to me. Some will think the argument is just a big pile of horseplays**t.
I know that is corny, but I've got a million of ‘em. I could be here all day. Seriously, I am that slow a typist. Anyway, I need to finish up, ‘cause I have to go talk to a man about buying a horseplay.
And as silly as this entire article is, it still makes more sense than the decision handed down by the SD Supremes.
Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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