Should Athletes Who Don’t Live In California Be Able To File Workers’ Comp.?

Legislation that would restrict most out of state professional athletes from filing Workers’ Compensation claims in California won approval in April, 2013, in the state Assembly. AB 1309, co-authored by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea (D) and Senator Ted W. Lieu (D), now goes to the state Senate. Representative Perea stated, “Our workers’ compensation system has been increasingly exploited by out-of-state professional players at the expense of California teams and all California businesses. The flood of claims is raising insurance costs for all employers.”

The bill is supported by the five major professional sports leagues and the owners. California’s system has become a magnet for out-of-state claims because of the generosity in money awards and lifetime medical care unavailable in other states. California’s law makes it easy for older athletes to make claims, sometimes years after they stopped playing. The athletes have played games in the Golden State, giving California jurisdiction over certain types of injuries, especially cumulative trauma. So-called “CT” is the result of accumulated wear and tear on the body after years of play. Opponents say it would allow rich team owners to evade their responsibilities in caring for injured players.

AB 1309 would ban professional athletes and their dependents from receiving California Workers Comp benefits if the athlete was hired by an organization outside of the state. This includes minor and major league baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer.

“The truth is AB 1309 makes it impossible for professional athletes to receive workers’ compensation they collectively bargained,” said a statement released by the labor coalition opposed to the bill. “There is no loophole. Those players paid taxes in California, and California provides a forum for workers’ comp cases to be heard.” The opposition believes the bill could eventually curtail claims of those not in the sports world who, while in California from elsewhere, suffered injuries leading to a claim for cumulative trauma.

Another issue involving the bill is who pays for what. In Workers’ Compensation, the premiums are paid by employers, unless self-insured, for insurance. But, the claims are administered by the Workers’ Compensation Division of the California Department of Industrial Relations, making it a state responsibility. The actuarial firm, Milliman, Inc., just issued a report for the professional league owners stating that the cost of California cumulative trauma claims filed, and expected to be filed, by athletes who played for professional sports teams during the past 30 years would drive the overall premium charges up for all by about two percent or less per year.

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