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Bill closing work comp loophole for pro athletes clears Assembly

Over the last several months, our workers’ compensation defense blog has been closely monitoring the showdown between team owners and former professional athletes over Assembly Bill 1309, a bill designed to limit the latter’s access to work comp benefits here in California.

In recent developments, it appears as if the matchup between the two groups now sits at 2-0 in favor of the team owners following a critical vote before the full Assembly last week.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno), AB 1309 calls for the following:

  • Only allows players from California-based professional franchises -- football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer -- to file work comp claims in the state (including players in the minor league systems of these professional franchises)
  • Reduces 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
  • Enables players who retired with a franchise located outside the state to file a work comp claim in the state provided they spent 80 percent of their career playing for a California-based franchise

“I agree that professional athletes deserve workers’ compensation benefits just like everyone else,” said Perea. “However, there is no reason for an out-of-state athlete to file for benefits in California when benefits are available to them in their principal state of employment.”

It appears that his fellow lawmakers -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- shared this sentiment as the Assembly voted 57-1 to pass the legislation last Thursday.

The lone dissenting vote belonged to Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina), who argued that professional athletes deserve equal access to the work comp system and equal treatment.

“If these athletes were speeding down our roads, breaking our laws here, they would be subject to California law,” he argued.

The bill now advances to the Senate, where its prospects for passing appear good.

As a bit of background, many former athletes have flocked to California with their work comp claims over the years because the laws are written such that the statute of limitations for claims may be 15 years or longer from the date of the work injury -- a longer time period than most other states. In addition, 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 further updates …

Source: Insurance Journal, “Bill limits California workers’ comp for pro athletes,” Laura Olson, May 6, 2013

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