California has amended its labor code to limit professional athletes (baseball, basketball, football, ice hockey and soccer players) who play primarily for out-of-state teams from filing workers' compensation claims based on cumulative or long-term traumatic physical conditions.
The bill, A.B. 1309, is retroactive to September 15, 2013 and amends Cal Lab Code § 3600.5, which previously permitted professional athletes for out-of-state teams to file claims based on cumulative injuries or long-term physical conditions that were caused, in whole or in part, by competition within the state of California.
The amendment is a further demonstration of California's push to revamp its over-taxed workers' compensation system, coming on the heels of a total overhaul of the workers' compensation scheme in September 2012. The bill's proponent, Assemblymember Henry T. Perea, introduced the bill as a means to prevent the California workers' compensation system from being "unfairly targeted by out-of-state professional athletes" and to ensure "California businesses will finally be protected from these claims."
Prior to the amendment, the California Insurance Guarantee Fund - a collection of workers' compensation insurance premium surcharges from all California employers - faced at least $250 million in claims by out-of-state athletes who had little or tenuous connections to the state of California.
For example, Wesley Carroll, a former professional football player for the Cincinnati Bengals and New Orleans Saints, filed a workers' compensation claim in California, claiming 46 percent permanent physical disability based on his playing career, even though he only played six games of his 48-game career in the state. Carroll was never a resident of California, nor was he ever hired by a California employer, but his claim made it all the way to the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, where it was dismissed on a technicality.
The amendment makes it more difficult for athletes like Carroll to bring claims in California going forward. For injuries that occurred or claims filed after September 15, 2013, out-of-state professional athletes now must demonstrate that they spent at least 20 percent of their playing time within the state in the 365 days immediately preceding his or her last day of work in the state. If pro athletes cannot reach that 20 percent threshold, their claims will be denied.
However, in-state professional athletes are still permitted to file claims for workers' compensation so long as they were hired by and/or supported by the state's professional athletic franchises, local businesses and/or labor unions.