The California State Assembly is currently considering AB 1309, a bill that would make it difficult for professional athletes in any sport or at any level from using the state’s workers’ compensation system. Members of the National Football League Players Association, including Drew Brees and Tom Brady, have been particularly vocal in their criticism of the bill.

California’s workers’ compensation system offers somewhat unique protection to workers. Specifically, California law does not require a person to file a workers’ compensation claim within a certain time after an injury occurs. This allows workers who suffer from conditions arising from cumulative trauma over a long period of time to file claims. 

This is a particularly important point for former NFL players, many of whom claim to suffer from neurodegenerative disorders as a result of sustaining multiple concussions in the course of their careers. The problem is that some of the disorders linked to accumulated mild head trauma, including dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease, take years to develop. By the time a person knows he has been injured, it would be too late to file a workers’ compensation claim.

The proposed bill would impose a limit on the amount of time that an injured worker has to file a workers’ compensation claim for an injury. Although many have focused on how this change would affect famous professional athletes, the reality is that it would deeply affect workers’ rights in California, no matter the profession. For many people, the workers’ compensation system is the last resort and it provides an essential safety net for everyone. 

Source: The Huffington Post, “The California Bill That Leaves Injured Workers to Fend for Themselves,” Sarita Gupta, June 21, 2013