Gender discrimination alleged in workers’ compensation

A recently filed class-action lawsuit alleges that the California workers’ compensation program is negatively biased against women.

When a construction worker falls from a scaffold or a manufacturing plant employee loses a limb in an equipment accident in California, workers' compensation claims may be filed. These benefits are what most employees automatically assume will be there if and when they should ever need them. However, some women in the state have found that this was not the case for them.

A class-action lawsuit was recently filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. According to CBS Los Angeles, the suit is against the state Department of Industrial Relations, the Division of Workers' Compensation, the Secretary of Labor and others. At the crux of the action is the allegation that the workers' compensation program in California has been outwardly discriminatory against women.

State and federal laws violated

Multiple employment laws at both the state and federal levels are designed to protect employees against discrimination. This includes discrimination based upon gender as well as that based upon things like religion, sexual preference, race, age and more. The new class-action suit accuses the state of violating these laws.

Determinations for permanent disability

When a worker is deemed to have a permanent disability , the Division of Workers' Compensation indicates this means that the person's medical condition is not expected to improve beyond its current state. This is called maximum medical improvement.

At this point, a doctor must send a report to the state detailing the person's medical condition, work limitations, whether or not the person can work in any capacity, and what future care may be needed. In addition, the doctor must indicate what amount of the disability is attributed to the person's employment. All of this information is used to help determine what amount of benefits will be payable.

Factors that may influence disability

Among the many women involved in the case, one is a worker who developed severe carpal tunnel syndrome. Her disability award level was lower than expected because the state said that her disability was not 100 percent attributable to her job. Instead, the Division of Workers' Compensation said that her gender and her age contributed to her disability and the award reflected that decision.

Inconsistent determinations

When evaluating levels of disability, multiple groups may be used for reference. The U.S. Veteran's Administration says that a woman who has had a mastectomy may be disabled by as much as 80 percent. The American Medical Association says that a man who has had his prostate removed is partially disabled. The AMA says that a woman who has had a mastectomy is not disabled at all.

Based upon the AMA's classification, a female officer who lost a breast due to job-related toxic exposure was denied disability benefits under workers' compensation.

Workers deserve help

When the systems put in place to help injured workers do not, other help is needed. Talking to an attorney about workers' compensation needs and issues is recommended in order to pursue fair treatment and benefits.