NFL workers’ comp issue expand to other sports, out-of-state workers in Florida
Delicate compromise too delicate: ‘surprise reversal’
Last time we posted ” ‘Delicate’ compromise may avoid killing Illinois system,” as part of our ongoing coverage of workers’ comp reform movements around the country.
Apparently, the “delicate compromise” has blown up. A May 30 piece at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Web site says:
In a surprise reversal of what was to have been historic workers’ compensation reform in Illinois this year, state House members killed the bill late Sunday after a bitter floor fight that pitted medical and business interests against workers.
The workers’ compensation system is a state-run program that settles cases between injured workers and employers, keeping those cases out of the courts. The system has been plagued by skyrocketing costs for employers and alleged abuses by employees.
The Democratic-sponsored bill that failed Sunday would have lowered those costs by reducing the program’s fees to doctors, and would have tightened rules for employees trying to collect. Proponents claimed it would have saved employers some $500 million a year. Critics said it unfairly attacked doctors and didn’t go far enough to stop fraud.
‘Nuclear option’ still on table
The so-called “nuclear option” remains viable. That’s the threat of simply letting the workers’ comp system die, forcing injured workers to take their cases to the court system. According to the Journal Star’s online site:
Backers of a failed plan to overhaul the Illinois workers’ compensation system prepared Tuesday to try again, while the possibility of simply eliminating the system loomed in the background.Rep. John Bradley, a key negotiator on the proposal, filed motions that would allow another vote. The overhaul failed Sunday in the House as Republicans opposed it as a group.Bradley, D-Marion, originally said lawmakers would only get one chance to vote on the overhaul. He said if it failed, the next step would be abolishing workers’ compensation altogether.Bradley said that “nuclear option” is still a possibility. The Illinois Senate could vote on it Tuesday, the final day of the legislative session.
The point is to avoid costly court battles and get workers back on job
The bill [passed by the House on Friday] would require employees to sue for damages if they believe a workplace injury has caused pain and suffering or loss of income. That would mean proving an injury is job-related. Under the current system, an employee need only show that it is possible for an injury to have resulted from the job.
Workers’ compensation is an agreement that employees won’t sue employers over job injuries. In return, employers pay into an insurance fund that distributes financial awards if an arbitrator rules in the employee’s favor.
Agency under federal investigation
Besides the reform attempt, the state workers’ comp agency is also dealing with a federal investigation of its practices, an investigation launched in the wake of a series of revealing stories published in the News-Democrat: “The newspaper reported that in just three years beginning Jan. 1, 2008, almost $10 million was paid for injuries to employees at Menard Correctional Center. Most of the tax-free settlements, including one paid to the warden for $75,678, were for repetitive trauma, or injury to the wrist or elbow that guards claimed was caused by manually locking and unlocking cells.”
NFL issue spreads to other sports, out-of-state workers
We’ve also covered workers’ comp issues in the NFL, some that threaten to spill over into non-athletic workplace situations. News from Florida updates with recent events. From the May 31 Orlando Sentinel, this headline: “Prodded by sports teams, lawmakers block out-of-state workers comp claims“:
Florida workers who travel as part of their jobs may soon have a harder time claiming benefits from on-the-job accidents — thanks, in large part, to the state’s professional sports teams.
Sometime in the next few weeks, Florida Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign into law a measure designed to ensure that workers who are injured while temporarily working in another state can’t pursue workers-compensation claims against their employer in those states.
The legislation, passed unanimously by the Florida Legislature last month, was sought by Florida’s professional sports franchises, lead by the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic, the National Hockey League’s Tampa Bay Lightning and the National Football League’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
Lobbyists for the teams say the law is needed to close a loophole that allows their players to seek claims in other states. Their most oft-cited statistic: From the inception of the Jaguars in 1995 through 2009, the franchise has played only five of its 224 games in California. Yet 95 percent of the team’s workers-compensation claims have been in California, where workers-comp laws are more favorable for employees. But the law could face a swift court challenge from unions representing professional athletes, which say lawmakers are attempting to take away rights from their members in Florida.
Beneath mainstream radar, issue closely watched in WC circles
This promises to be an ongoing issue in the workers’ comp arena. Sports franchises may hope to restrict language such that it applies only to professional athletes. So far, they haven’t been able to do that. Taken together, all these subjects indicate the complexity than can follow a workplace injury, whether you’re an elite “star” or simply a worker trying to make a living.
We can help you find an attorney
Frequently enough, a worker’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources: