In the NFL's continuing attack against the rights of professional athletes to file for workers' compensation benefits in California, the NFL has prevailed upon Assemblyman Henry Perea to author Assembly Bill 1309
In its simplest form, the proposed bill will prevent professional athletes in the five major sports (football, baseball, hockey, soccer and basketball) from being able to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits in the state of California if they did not play for a California team at the end of their career. This law would likely exclude even residents of California who play for non-California teams, even though they may have lived here for their entire lives.
Our law firm STRENUOUSLY opposes this bill as being discriminatory, unfair and unnecessary.
A little known fact is that a professional athlete is taxed on earnings when playing a game in California, whether or not that athlete resides in the state. In fact, the tax even covers signing and performance bonuses regardless of whether such activities take place in California, (on a pro-rata basis). California is one of the more aggressive states in taxing athletes. It seems unrealistic to ask these athletes to contribute to the tax base of California and then deny them basic access to the courts of this state for purposes of pursuing workers' compensation benefits if they can otherwise demonstrate that they have sustained injury within the borders of the state.
Another misconception is that these cases are costing California and its taxpayers' money. Nothing could be further from the truth. The workers' compensation system in California does not use any public funds, so none of the money that is awarded to athletes in workers' compensation claims comes from taxpayer money. In fact, the entire workers' compensation system including judges, courts and support staff is user funded, which means that it is paid for by a surcharge on the workers' compensation premiums collected by insurance companies.
Last year, the state of California passed an extensive workers' compensation reform bill, SB863, and there is no need for the state to waste its time and effort debating this bill for the sole benefit of club owners who operate outside the state of California and contribute little or nothing to the state economy. The media and the proponents of this bill would have you believe tht the players are all millionaires who are cashing in on the California workers' compensation system. That is not the case.
This bill targets not only the players in the elite leagues but also all minor league divisions of their respective sports. Many minor league division athletes have minimal earnings below the average weekly wage for the State of California
While supporters of the bill believe that California is somehow encumbered by these cases, there are no facts to support that belief. Compared to the total number of cases filed in the state the number of cases filed by athletes is minimal.
The most reprehensible aspect of this bill is that should it be allowed to become law, it will in fact take money from the pockets of California taxpayers. If the team owners are allowed to escape their liability for providing future medical treatment on the significant injuries sustained by their employees, eventually the cost of the medical treatment that will be required by these athletes will fall on state and federal programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. Funding for these programs comes from all taxpayers in California and throughout the country.
The question that needs asking is why these owners should be accorded such privilege. They have not demonstrated a financial need. Their profits are enormous. The NFL itself estimates between 9 and 10 billion dollars per year in revenue. They now want to use the underhanded tactic of an ill advised piece of legislation to transfer the future cost of providing benefits and medical treatment to the public, much the same way that they con the public into funding the cost of building stadiums from which they generate huge profits.
I would urge everyone to contact their State Assembly and State Senators and ask them to oppose AB1309. You should also direct your opposition to this bill to Assemblyman Henry Perea at (916) 319-2031 or email him at [email protected]
I invite you to stay tuned to our website for additional articles on this and other areas of the law of general interest to everyone.
Modesto Diaz, Managing Partner
(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone. It does not reflect any opinions or represent the opinions of any other organization or individuals.)