The Chicago Bears, Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox have written a letter to a state representative in a show of support for a new bill that could detrimentally affect the workers’ compensation claims of injured athletes. If passed, the bill would decrease injured players’ payouts by hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions.
The existing Workers’ Compensation Act allows an injured employee to file a wage differential claim in which he or she may be entitled to up to two-thirds of the difference between the pre- and post-injury salary. This wage differential can be paid up until the age of 67 or five years from the date of the injury, whichever is later. The law applies equally to injured athletes as it does to other types of injured employees. The law is based on the idea that the injured worker is entitled to this benefit until the age at which he or she retires. However, professional athletes typically retire well before this age. A Chicago workers compensation attorney can explain how to file a claim for the wage differential based on the current law.
Proposed New Law
The workers’ compensation amendment that is currently being considered by Illinois lawmakers would adjust the age for which the wage differential could be collected until the player reaches the age of 35 instead of the age of 67.
The Chicago teams that wrote the state representative explained that the average injured worker in Illinois does retire in his or her sixties but that the average career for an NFL player is 3.5 years while it is about five to six years for other professional athletes. The teams argue that they should not be required to pay significant payouts to injured athletes that go well beyond the expected retirement age. The existing law does have a cap of just over $1,076 per week, so an injured employee can receive a maximum of approximately $56,000. This can add up to a sizable amount of benefits if the player receives the benefit for 30 years or more.
Athletes for the professional Chicago sports teams are opposed to the law, recognizing that it could adversely affect their ability to collect on a workers’ compensation claim for a significant period of time. The player’s union has threatened to urge free-agent players to consider playing on a different team if the law passes.