The updated version of the controversial California workers comp bill has passed a Senate vote, and will return to the Assembly on September 13th for another vote before heading to the governor’s desk.
The update to California workers comp will close a loophole that allowed out-of-state retired professional sports players to file for workers compensation in the state if they had ever played a game in California. Former professional NFL players particularly used the workers comp law, as it was the last resort for compensation for serious injuries, including traumatic brain injury, after retirement, health insurance, NFL, and local workers comp money ran out. Reportedly, more than 4,400 retired professional football players have filed for workers comp in California. The NFL is one of the backers of the new bill to limit the claims former athletes can file.
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. 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.
One of the bill’s opponents is Sen. Rod Wright (D-Inglewood), who pointed out that workers comp all over the country is funded by employers, and not by the state or tax payers, therefore the only group to gain from this legislation are the owners of sports teams. “If there was a risk to California, I would be supportive,” he said. “But what we’re talking about today is whether we give the owners a pass on the players who played many years for their teams.”
Changes made in the senate specify that a former professional athlete must have played two seasons for a professional sports team in the state, then they can file for workers comp based on cumulative trauma.
“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.
Legislatures assure the public that the bill will not affect other “transient” jobs, such as truck drivers and traveling salespeople, who visit the state for extended periods or several times, but who may not live in California.
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.