A federal court has ruled that three former Chicago Bears players can’t file for workers’ comp benefits in California and should file in Illinois instead. This appears to end the players’ attempt to file in a state with better benefits.
Former Bears players Michael Haynes, Joe Odom and Cameron Worrell filed the California claims.
The Chicago Bears and NFL said the players couldn’t file in California because their individual contracts said any workers’ comp claims would be subject to Illinois law.
An arbitrator agreed that the contracts said Illinois law should prevail.
Earlier this year, the Bears and NFL filed a motion to enforce the arbitration decision. The players and NFL Players Association filed a motion to vacate the arbitrator’s decision.
Now, U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo has ruled that the arbitration should stand and the players’ California claims should be dismissed.
In her opinion, Bucklo noted that she had to decide the case on a very narrow issue regarding the arbitration.
But the judge also took the opportunity to wonder why the players thought they should be able to file workers’ comp claims in California. “I am left to wonder why, indeed, we are concerned with the public policy of California,” Bucklo wrote.
It’s not unusual for former pro athletes to shop for workers’ comp benefits in states other than the one where their former team is located. The reason is no surprise: Some states’ workers’ comp laws are more favorable to employees than others.
In fact, when pro athletes do this, it’s no different from when an employee who is usually located in one state is injured in another while on the job. Lawyers for the workers will choose which state has the more favorable workers’ comp law and file there.