Former NFL Coach Joins Pro Athletes’ Workers Comp Fight


Former Coach Fights for Athletes’ Workers Comp Rights in California

As California workers comp bill AB 1309 makes its way through the legislature, intense debate has sprung up about whether or not the bill is fair to professional athletes.

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.

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.

Now, Dick Vermeil, former head coach of the Eagles, the Chiefs, and the Rams, has published an op-ed about the workers comp legislation. He strongly disagrees with it, saying that AB 1309 is unfair to workers who suffer long-time physical injury due to the nature of their work in a field with very unstable employment.

“There is no question that football is dangerous,” he writes in his editorial piece. “NFL players get injured on the job so often that an “injury report” section is included in sports pages. A study run by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that the risk of death associated with neurodegenerative disorders is about three times higher among NFL players than the rest of the population.”

He continues: “Many athletes continue to suffer from the effects of injuries long after their playing careers are over, and workers’ compensation benefits are a lifeline.”

He argues that the bill limits access to workers compensation because the NFL is no longer willing to pay for it. Opponents of the bill have repeatedly pointed out that workers comp does not, in any way, affect California tax payers – making it harder for former professional athletes to apply for and receive workers comp only stands to line the pockets of NFL heads.

But where does workers comp come from in California? Vereil’s op-ed continues, “It comes out of the dollars generated by the sport. The active players have even agreed in their current collective bargaining agreement that the cost of the benefit for all players, both current and former, is to be charged against their salary cap. The result would be lower salaries.”

As the bill passed the House and awaits decision in the Senate. Until then, the workers comp debate continues to rage.

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.