When employment contract disputes arise, there can be strength in numbers.
That may be the hope of more than 80 former NFL players, whose pending lawsuits were recently consolidated into a master complaint in a federal district court. The claims allege that the NFL hid information linking football-related head trauma to permanent brain injuries.
The plaintiffs believe the NFL should be held responsible for their medical care and monitoring. Some currently suffer from dementia, Alzheimer's disease and other neurological conditions. Others remain asymptomatic but worry about future onset of similar conditions.
The players accuse the NFL of turning a blind eye to known health risks associated with repetitive blows producing sub-concussive and concussive results, such as long-term brain damage and cognitive decline. They believe the NFL should have taken a preventative approach and imposed safety regulations governing player conduct on and off the field.
Most employers are not required by law to offer health-related benefits to their employees, although the practice of providing health-related benefits is fairly common. However, when employees are members of a union that has entered into a collective bargaining agreement, those benefits may become a matter of law.
In the case of this dispute, the NFL players are or were members of a labor organization called the National Football League Players Association, or NFLPA, which represents all players in matters concerning wages, hours, and working conditions. The NFLPA also ensures the terms of the CBA are met and negotiates and monitors retirement and insurance benefits.
Although the former players may not be expressly accusing the NFL of violating any specific provisions of the collective bargaining agreements, they do accuse the NFL of voluntarily assuming -- and then neglecting -- a duty to investigate, study, and truthfully report the medical risks associated with mild traumatic brain injury in football.
Employment contracts are not specific to union jobs, although most employees would prefer to have a union representative or attorney by their side if forced to negotiate the terms of their own employment contracts. If you are facing an employment negotiation, don't delay in contacting an attorney. An attorney can ensure your rights are protected.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times, "NFL brain injury lawsuit includes 2,138 players," Maryclaire Dale, June 7, 2012