Illinois Senate Proposal to Limit Workers’ Compensation Benefits to 35 Years of Age

A recent Illinois legislative proposal in Senate Bill 12 threatens to reduce the ability of professional athletes in the state to collect long-term workers’ compensation benefits.

Under Illinois law, permanently injured workers are able to collect workers’ compensation benefits until age 67. SB 12, which is part of an overall state budget package, contains a provision which would define a covered professional athlete as someone who plays for a professional sports team in Illinois and “derives the majority of his or incoming from playing athletics.” That class of employees would no longer be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits after the age of 35. National Football League Players Association lobbyist Joe Briggs in discussing the provision noted the glaring disparity in worker protection in discussing a hypothetical situation where a player and athletic trainer both sustained permanent injuries arising out of the same bus accident, but only the trainer would be allowed to collect benefits after turning 35.

The provision does not appear to be a key provision in the overall reform package and representatives have discussed possibly separating the provision from SB 12 and addressing the issue at a future date. Critics of the provision are likely to highlight the disparity of treatment among different classes of workers, especially among high-risk employments like sports, while proponents of the legislation will note business’ concerns in controlling workers’ compensation costs.

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