The National Football League 2014 Draft has recently concluded leaving teams and players alike excited about the upcoming season on the field. However, it is one team's moves off the field that are causing a stir within the league and state legislature.
The owner of the Saints, an NFL team North Carolina residents and Carolina Panther fans know well as a divisional foe, is reported to be behind a new legislation which plans to limit, or nearly eradicate players' workers' compensation benefits. And the NFL Players Association is fighting back.
The proposed law will consider a player’s recent earnings only to calculate pro athlete workers' compensation benefits - even though future earnings are also included in the NFL's current collective bargaining agreement. Pro athletes are the only group of people employed in the state using future earnings to determine benefits.
The legislation, which has passed through the state House of Representatives, brings the players in line with the workers' compensation claims process for all other employees in the state. The bill heads to the state Senate next for deliberation.
At issue is the fact that players do not earn a stable salary throughout the year. During the off-season, they typically earn per diems. Annual raises are generally only paid out during the 17 weeks of the regular season. Their workers’ compensation benefits could vary widely depending on when during the year they are injured.
A state representative standing in opposition of the bill cautions that it will bypass existing contracts, and negatively affect players. Similarly, the NFLPA executive director sees the pushing of the bill as a way for the team franchise to save money by undermining the already established collective bargaining agreement.
The bill is still undergoing deliberation. However, any proposed changes to workers' compensation laws should be closely followed - especially when dealing with claims from employees of inherently risky professions.
Whether you are a high-profile NFL athlete or not, it is a good idea to speak with a North Carolina workers' compensation lawyer if you feel your rights may have been violated or you have a question regarding compensation for a workplace injury.
Source: USA Today, "NFLPA lambasts Saints-backed workers' comp bill," May 8, 2014