California lawmaker proposes change to workers’ comp for athletes

State lawmakers are considering changes to California’s workers’ compensation laws to deny coverage for professional athletes who play games in California but who are not affiliated with a California team. Generally, workers who are injured on the job in California are entitled to benefits from the workers’ comp system. While professional athletes work in a different kind of workplace than most workers in the state, some lawmakers are concerned that players and retired players from visiting professional sports teams are receiving benefits for injuries sustained in California.

Generally, many workplace accidents may involve an injury. Such an event should entitle the California worker to benefits under the state system. But not all injuries in the workplace occur in a one-time event. Repetitive motion injuries, such as a desk worker developing carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, or other form of repetitive stress injury, are generally workers’ compensation issues. Similarly, cumulative stress experienced on the field for pro athletes may be the source of a workplace injury.

Workers’ compensation benefits are generally funded through payments from employers. A lawyer for the National Football League Players Association recently told the Los Angeles Times that the NFL salary cap formula includes a provision to account for a prorated share of each team’s workers’ comp bill.

The recent California measure seeks to limit benefits for players of the five big professional sports who entrain Californians on courts, fields or on the ice. The bill would require that a player work at least 90 days in California during the year to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits in the state. The legislative director for the California Labor Federation says that professional athletes are workers. If the workers are injured in the workplace at a California location, she says that “they deserve to have access to their benefits,” according to the Times.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Bill would bar some athletes from California workers’ comp claims,” Marc Lifsher, Feb. 25, 2013

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