Guest Blog by Jon Rehm
A recent Louisiana ruling on the calculation of the average weekly wage for an injured New Orleans Saints player making the league minimum calls, out for a legislative remedy.
In Hoffman v. New Orleans Saints, No. 10-CA-391(La.Ct.App. 1/25/11) the plaintiff broke his ankle in a voluntary practice where he was being paid $110 per practice per the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Plaintiff’s total salary for the season was $175,000. However the court found plaintiff had an average weekly wage of $440 per week, because he was only actually earning $440 per week at the time of the injury. The plaintiff argued that his average weekly wage should be based on a weekly average of his annual salary.
The court’s reasoning lead to an unfavorable result for the player in Hoffman, however the reasoning the Louisiana court used calculating average weekly wage benefits a much larger class of workers – school employees. School employees are often paid out over 12 months for wages that are actually earned over the nine months they earn during the school year.
This reasoning sets school employees and professional athletes in conflict. NFL players should seek out legislative exemptions for calculating the average weekly of its injured players. A recent study shows that nearly half of NFL players are injured during a given season. Head and neck injuries are particularly prevalent and especially serious as exemplified by the recent death of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson. The average career in the NFL is 2-3 years. Marginal players, like the plaintiff in Hoffman, are most vulnerable because their careers are too short and their salaries are too low to mitigate the effects of their football-related injuries. Allowing NFL players to base their workers' compensation payments based on a weekly average of their annual salary, would be a small-step towards fairly compensating athletes who entertain millions of fans and financially enrich team owners and television networks.
Jon Rehm practices in Lincoln, Nebraska (Rehm, Bennett & Moore, PC, LLO). He concentrates his practice on representing injured workers and their families. He hold a degree in journalism from Northwestern University(B.S.) and a law degree from Nebraska College of Law(J.D.).