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Former athletes gather in Sacramento to speak out against bill closing work comp loophole

Last month, Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) unveiled legislation designed to amend the state labor code such that the legal loophole allowing professional athletes from out-of-state organizations to seek work comp benefits here in California would be effectively closed.

Specifically, Perea's Assembly Bill 1309 would mandate that only players from California-based franchises could file work comp claims in the state, and shorten the amount of time that players have to file a claim to either within a year of their retirement from the sport or a physician's diagnosis of a condition, whichever is later.

"Professional athletes have every right to file for workers' comp benefits -- but they should do so in their home state or in the state where they were principally employed," said Perea said in a news release.

AB 1309's supporters -- which includes team owners -- claim that the measure would drastically reduce instances of work comp abuse involving former players who file claims in multiple states, and result in significant savings for state taxpayers.

Opponents of AB 1309, however, argue that the proposed bill is inherently inequitable as it blocks access to those players who paid income taxes for games played here in the Golden State. Furthermore, they argue that the time limits for filing a claim prescribed by the legislation fail to account for those injuries that may not manifest themselves until years later.

Interestingly, at least two dozen former National Football League (NFL) players, including Dana Stubblefield, Reggie Williams and Ickey Woods gathered at the Capitol earlier this week for a press conference to express their concerns with AB 1309.

"[Players] paid into the system and now they want to take the system away from us," said Woods, a former star running back for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Former professional athletes have been filing work comp claims in California since the 1980s despite having ever played only a few games here.

This is because California work comp laws are written such that the statute of limitations for work comp claims may be 15 years or longer from the date of work injury -- a longer time period than most other states. Furthermore, injured workers are also allowed to file for "cumulative trauma" (i.e., conditions that are caused by years of exposure to repetitive trauma on the job) so long as they can prove that they performed some type of work in California at some point in time.

Stay tuned for updates ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Source:

The Washington Post, "Professional athletes fight California bill to limit out-of-state workers' compensation claims," April 15, 2013

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