A class-action lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, is taking on the systematic discrimination of women by the California workers’ compensation system. The lawsuit, filed by a group of women and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California State Council, alleges that the administration of the workers compensation system sanctions discriminatory practices which violate women’s constitutional and state rights to equal protections. The plaintiffs claim that medical conditions experienced by women are routinely awarded less compensation based on factors attributed to gender.
The lawsuit argues women are discriminated against in at least two distinct ways.
- Permanent disability compensation received by women is frequently and unlawfully reduced based solely on factors of gender.
- American Medical Association guidelines assign “impairment” ratings which limit (and can eliminate) the compensation received by women for cases of breast cancer.
Worker’s Compensation Claim Reductions Based on Gender Stereotypes
Currently, the California worker’s compensation system can base monetary compensation partly on arguments of causation in a process known as “apportionment.” When a claim is filed, a qualified medical examiner (QME) will determine the nature of any injuries and assign a value to the portions of an injury which may have been caused by work-related incidents as well as outside, or “non-industrial”, related stresses. This means that a victim can have money subtracted from their claim if a QME feels that an outside factor was likely to have played a role. This step is required for the completion of a claim and the determination of causal factors is left to the discretion of each QME.
As evidence, the lawsuit cites multiple cases were women received reduced disability compensation based solely on factors of gender. One such example cites the story of a mechanical designer who sought compensation for the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. She was informed, however, that she would be receiving a reduction of 40% for pre-existing factors related to her post-menopausal status as well as gender predispositions. One plaintiff in the case, an office worker for more than a decade, filed a claim for numbness and pains in her arms, neck, and legs. The QME for her case allowed for reductions of 20% citing that neuropathy is common for her age and gender demographic.
Discrimination Based on Impairment Ratings
The second complaint made in the lawsuit argues that guidelines released by the American Medical Association (AMA) allow for little to no compensation for female-specific breast cancers. Under AMA guidelines, a woman who undergoes a mastectomy due to breast cancer qualifies for an impairment rating of only 5%. If a woman is post-menopausal, this rating can be reduced to 0%. This is highlighted in comparison to a disability rating of 16-20% for men who experience prostate cancer.
An impairment rating legally represents the percent to which a person is disabled, with 0% indicating that no long-term physical harm occurred and that future earning capacity is in no way affected. The plaintiffs argue that these practices in do not account for the actual suffering experienced and reduced income potential experienced by women battling breast cancer.
Compassionate Workers Compensation Attorneys
Discrimination based on gender stereotypes is illegal in the workplace and if you or someone you know is being denied benefits, it is important to take action. At Ufkes & Bright, we have been helping injured workers seek the compensation they deserve since 1964. Our Santa Ana Workers' Compensation Lawyers strive to deliver a personalized, direct approach for each case and our clients always work one-on-one with their attorney. Even if your claim has been denied, we may still be able to help!
Call (714) 500-8661 and schedule a free consultation with our firm today.