Bill Restricting Pro Athletes from Filing Workers Comp in California Reaches a Compromise
The controversial California workers comp bill aimed at professional athletes has been updated in a compromise, according to state legislators.
AB 1309 was proposed by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea in February as a way to help prevent exploitation and reduce problems in the California workers comp system. The workers comp system in the state currently allows professional athletes and other non-residential workers to apply for workers comp if they have ever worked in the state for any amount of time. For professional athletes, this means that if they have ever played a game in the state of California, they can file for workers comp from the state when they eventually injure themselves and need financial assistance. 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.
Perea and other supporters of the bill believe that the huge number of workers comp claims from out of state pro athletes overburdens the workers comp court system in California, preventing residential workers’ claims from being resolved in a timely fashion. Professional athletes often receive large awards as well, which hurts employers in the state. And, proponents argue, athletes already receive insurance and medical benefits from the league, plus workers comp benefits in their home states.
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.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) says that the recent compromise, which will be added to the bill, allows out of state professional athletes to file for workers comp in California on the basis of “cumulative trauma” as long as the athlete played two seasons for a professional team based in the state.
“The essence of the agreement is to limit the ability of athletes who have never played for a California team to use the cumulative trauma portion of the workers’ compensation law” to file a claim, Steinberg told reporters.
“This bill was strengthened to ensure out-of-state non-specific injury claims have no business being filed in California, while we safeguard the rights of injured workers who are substantially employed here,” Perea said.
“The amended bill strikes a fair and equitable balance between protecting California’s employees and closing an egregious loophole that allows out-of-state claims to be filed in California,” said Ed Lamb, chief financial officer for the Los Angeles Clippers.
The bill must still be approved by California’s senate before it is law.
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
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