AB 1309 was authored by Insurance Committee Chairman Perea to address abuse of California’s ultra-lenient workman’s comp system. As is, the system lends itself to abuse by allowing former professional athletes to file claims in CA even if their contacts with the state are minimal. During the insurance committee hearing, Assemblywoman Torres noted that an insurance company’s statistics showed that claims paid out to approximately 2% of claimants involved former athletes whose only contact with California was their agents. They had never played for a California team, played a game in California, or even lived in California. But because of the system’s set up, they were somehow able to file a successful claim.
So to close the “loopholes” and prohibit athletes from “taking advantage” of the system, AB 1309 was introduced. AB 1309 will effectively exclude professional athletes from filing workman’s comp claims in the state of California. If passed, it will retroactively wipe out pending claims as well, some that have been in the pipeline for 4-5 years. There are approximately 1,000 pending workman’s comp claims in the state that would be precluded if the bill passes.
The original version of the bill introduced in February would preclude a claim if the athlete played on another pro-team domiciled in another state, unless he played more than 90 days in California within the last 365 days of employment. Critics argued that players like LaDainian Tomlinson, Tim Brown or the late Junior Seau would all be precluded from filing a claim in California because they played on out-of-state teams even though they spent a majority of their career on a California team.
Assemblyman Perea attempted to address these concerns by amending the bill in April to include what is being called the 80-8 rule. The amendment would allow players who played 80% of their career and 8 years on a California team to file a workman’s comp claim even if the last year of the employment was with an out of state employer. The bill language reads “This paragraph shall apply to all occupational disease and cumulative injury claims filed against an employer of professional athletes if the employer is subject to this division, unless the professional athlete was employed for eight or more consecutive years by the same California-based employer pursuant to a contract of hire entered into in California, and 80 percent or more of the professional athlete’s employment as a professional athlete occurred while employed by that California-based employer against whom the claim is filed.
Critics of the amendment point out that the average NFL career is 3.5 years – there are probably a handful of players who will actually play 8 years on one team, let alone 8 years total in the NFL. The duration of most NFL contracts are 1-4 years. These contracts are not guaranteed, and players often move from team to team after being cut or their contracts expire. Thus they say that the 80-8 rule will not help many players who started their career with a California team and moved elsewhere for the remaining years of their limited career.