(CN) – The 9th Circuit on Monday blocked Tennessee Titans offensive line coach Bruce Matthews from seeking workers’ compensation in California based on his 19-year career in the National Football League.
The three-judge panel in Pasadena, Calif., upheld an arbitration award barring the NFL Hall of Famer from pursuing his workers’ compensation claim under California law.
Matthews claimed his 19-year career in professional football caused him pain and injuries later in life.
However, Judge Raymond Fisher said the former player failed to establish that the arbitration award “violates an explicit, well-defined and dominant public policy of the state of California.”
“Because Matthews has not shown that the award deprives him of something to which he is entitled under state law, he likewise has not shown that it violates federal labor policy,” Fisher wrote.
Matthews played professional football from 1983 to 2002, first for the Houston Oilers and then for its successor teams, the Tennessee Oilers and the Tennessee Titans.
He retired from the game in 2002 and then spent two seasons as an offensive assistant for the Houston Texans. He joined the Titans’ coaching staff in 2011.
In 2008, he filed for workers’ compensation benefits in California, claiming his years “playing and practicing professional football” led to pain and injuries.
The Titans and the National Football League Management Council argued that Matthews’ application for benefits in California breached an employment agreement requiring workers’ compensation claims to be decided under Tennessee law.
An arbitrator agreed and barred Matthews from seeking California benefits.
On appeal, Matthews argued that the arbitration award violated California public policy against workers’ compensation waivers and federal labor policy preventing employment contracts from trumping state minimum labor standards.
He also claimed the award violated the U.S. Constitution, saying California “has the absolute right to apply its workers’ compensation laws within its borders and to prohibit any employee from waiving those rights.”
Citing a weak link to California, the 9th Circuit ruled that Matthews “has not alleged sufficient contacts with California to show that his workers’ compensation claim comes within the scope of California’s workers’ compensation regime.”
A first-round draft pick in 1983, Matthews became one of the most decorated offensive linemen in the NFL. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.