The Orlando Apollos football team is a thing of the past. The now-defunct team, part of the also-defunct Alliance of American Football stadium league (or AAF), made headlines due in part to issues the team faced when put up against an unlikely opponent – Florida’s workers’ compensation laws. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Florida’s exclusion of pro athletes from benefiting from its workers’ compensation scheme has forced the team to start practicing in neighboring Georgia where the laws are more favorable. According to team officials, the team commuted 90 minutes from Jacksonville across the Georgia border for training and practice.
According to news reports, the state of Georgia covered the Apollo players under its workers’ compensation scheme as long as the team would spend a minimum of 51% of its practice days in the state. Apollos coach told the Orlando Sentinel that the team would practice in Georgia and bus back to Florida during its home games. The league didn’t last long enough for us to find out if more football teams would follow suit in using similar strategies to try to protect their professional players.
Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Rules
Unlike many other states across the nation, Florida does not cover pro athletes under its workers’ compensation laws. As a result of the physicality and impact a professional athlete experiences regularly, injuries are a large part of their career. Simply put, if a professional athlete was hurt in another state during a game, the athlete would file a workers’ compensation claim in the state where the injury occurred because he or she could not do so in Florida. In years past, professional athletes belonging to Florida teams could take advantage of workers’ compensation benefits within other states. In 2011, however, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 723 (HB 723). While the American Alliance of Football (AAF) reports that other professional leagues such as the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL have been able to find insurance companies that will cover their teams, the AAF has been unsuccessful in insuring all eight of its teams.
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How Pro Athletes are Different
Florida is different than other states when it comes to professional athletes. In fact, Florida law does not even recognize professional athletes as employees. Instead, they are union workers. Accordingly, sports teams are not required to provide workers’ compensation for their players. Instead, to streamline the resolution process and limit a team’s financial exposure to future workers’ compensation claims, a special arbitration process is used to resolve injury claims brought forth by players. The United States Supreme Court has held that employees can seek benefits in any state with proper jurisdiction to hear the claim (i.e., if the injury occurred in that state). Likewise, the Court has repeatedly held that federal law does not allow employees to bargain away certain rights created under state employee benefit laws.
Orlando Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
Florida’s workers’ compensation scheme can be complicated. This is particularly true when it comes to understanding what benefits employees are entitled to. If you or someone you know who has been hurt on the job, contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at Bogin, Munns & Munns to learn about the legal options available to you. Schedule your free consultation today!
NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and you should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. You should consult with a duly licensed attorney regarding your Florida legal matter, as every situation is unique. Please know that merely reading this article, subscribing to this blog, or otherwise contacting Bogin, Munns & Munns does not establish an attorney-client relationship with our firm. Should you seek legal representation from Bogin, Munns & Munns, any such representation must first be agreed to by the firm and confirmed in a written agreement.