NFL Players Attempt to Block Workers’ Comp Bill

football Chicago bears, workers compensationDue to a possible bill in Illinois that has the potential to reduce benefits for professional athletes who sustain an injury during a game, professional athletes are urging others not to sign with the Chicago Bears. The NFL players union is spearheading this action, seeking to protect injured players.

Current Law in Illinois

Illinois has a unique workers compensation law that allows an injured worker to collect workers’ compensation benefits until the age of 67 if  a worker is hurt on the job and must take a lower-paying job. The existing law allows an injured worker to collect about two-thirds of the difference between the old job and the new job. This workers compensation law currently applies to professional athletes and other workers.

Details on the Bill

The bill that is being considered singles out professional athletes. These individuals tend to have very short careers, often culminating in early retirement due to suffering a serious injury on the court or field. Senate Bill 12 seeks to treat professional athletes differently, largely due to the concept that professional athletes do not have a reasonable expectation to work until the age of 67 like employees in other fields. If the bill is passed, the wage differential will only extend to age 35 instead of age 67.

Reaction to the New Bill

Major sports teams support the bill while professional athletes who may see sizable adjustments in workers’ compensation benefits reduced do not. Individuals who support the bill state that the medical benefits will continue in place and that the change will simply adjust the system to provide a more realistic time limitation for workers’ compensation benefits. An additional concern is that players who played in Illinois for a short time who are not native to the state may continue to receive benefits for an extended period of time under the existing law. They also say that Illinois pays out more in workers’ compensation claims than any other state for claims brought by professional athletes. Those who oppose the bill believe that the bill will cause injured workers to suffer needlessly and be denied benefits simply because they are professional athletes. Leaders of the players union vow to urge free agents not to sign with the Chicago Bears. The new workers compensation law is still being considered and changes are still being made.

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