Professional athletes are employees. When injured on the job, even those who earned million dollar salaries are covered employees under most states’ workers’ compensation laws. However, because many athletes favor filing for benefits in states that pay out a higher workers’ compensation benefit, states such as California are growing weary of workers’ compensation claims from former NFL Players.
Recently, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied California workers’ compensation payment to former Tennessee Titans offensive lineman Bruce Matthews. According to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, Matthews did not allege “sufficient contacts with California to show that his workers’ compensation claim comes within the scope of California’s workers’ compensation regime.” Furthermore, Matthews did not establish that the arbitration award violated “an explicit, well-defined and dominant public policy of the state of California. Because Matthews did not show that the award deprived him of something to which he is entitled under state law, he likewise did not show that it violated federal labor policy,”
Though born in North Carolina, Matthews attended high school in Arcadia, CA. Accepted to play football at the University of Southern California, Matthews became achieved “All-American” status and was drafted in the first round of the 1983 NFL draft. During his 19-year NFL career, he played for one team, the Houston Oilers, who later became the Tennessee Titans. Matthews currently is the offensive line coach for the Titans. Though in his football career he played several NFL games in the state of California, Matthews never played for a California NFL franchise.
Matthews filed for workers’ compensation insurance benefits in California in 2008, six years after he retired in 2002, for the pain and disability due to injuries he sustained during his career. The Titans and the NFL Management Council opposed the filing arguing that Matthews’ application for benefits in California breached an employment agreement requiring workers’ compensation claims to be decided under Tennessee law. The decision by the three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to deny workers’ compensation benefits to Matthews upheld an arbitration award barring the NFL Hall of Famer from pursuing his workers’ compensation claim under California law.
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