Bill Denying Workers Comp to Out-of-State Pro Athletes Passes Assembly
A bill that changes California’s workers comp rules for out-of-state professional athletes passed a state assembly vote. It now passes to the Senate.
The bill – AB1309, proposed by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno) – changes the rules for professional athletes to file for workers comp in the state of California. The current “loop-hole” in California workers comp law allows retired professional athletes to file in the state – regardless of where they reside or which team they played for – to file for workers comp benefits based on “cumulative trauma” that may have occurred while playing a handful of games in California.
The bill passed Assembly vote 61 to 4.
According to Perea, the NFL, and other supporters of the bill, professional athletes have abused the current system to garner large workers comp awards, on top of other injury awards they may be receiving in their home state, from insurance, and from their league. The large claims raise workers comp insurance costs for employers in California, and also tie up the workers comp courts with unnecessary claims, while more legitimate, in-state workers comp claims must wait.
Opponents of the bill say that the NFL and other leagues do not compensate former players fairly for cumulative injuries, and California is the only recourse for expensive, life-long physical problems. Labor unions also fear that the new bill will set a dangerous precedent – while it currently targets well-paid and often-famous professional athletes, it could extend to other workers who travel into the state, including truck drivers or traveling salespeople.
“There is a slippery slope of who is going to be next,” said Angie Wei, legislative director for the California Labor Federation.
“California is a last resort for a lot of these guys because they’ve already been cut off in the other states,” said Mel Owens, a former Los Angeles Rams linebacker who is now a compensation lawyer.
Perea’s bill changes the rules so that athletes must file a workers comp claim within the first year of their final game, or of a physician diagnosing the injury, whichever is later. If a professional athlete spent 80 percent of their career playing in California, they can still file a workers comp claim in California, even if they live out of state now, or played for an out of state team.
The California Labor Coalition and the Labor Federation released a statement after the vote, saying the bill would pass a dangerous precedent for limiting access to workers comp benefits.
“At its core, AB1309 only helps professional sports team owners circumvent their responsibility under the law to the health and safety of their employees,” the groups said in a statement after the vote.
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
The workers comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.