Women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force and are increasingly taking on the breadwinner role in their families. However, women are still not receiving equal pay. To be exact, women who work full-time are paid only 79 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to the National Women’s Law Center. Not only does this inequality affect women’s spending power, it sends a clear message that women’s work isn’t worth as much and that women are valued less than their male colleagues.
Unfortunately, the pay gap isn’t the only type of gender bias women are facing in the workplace. A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court earlier this month alleges that many injured employees receive less workers’ compensation benefits simply because they are women.
Page et al. v. Parisotto et al.
The case argues that the disparity in workers’ compensation benefits is partially due to gender stereotypes against women, as well as the fact that a majority of medical examiners are men.
“The permanent disability benefits to which injured women workers are entitled are reduced for no reason other than the worker’s gender,” the lawsuit reads. It then goes on to read, “In contrast, men’s benefits are not reduced on the basis of gender, and conditions unique to male reproductive biology are not assumed to be a basis for paying lower benefits to men than to women.” [http://workerscomppaygap.org/assets/Filed_Workers_Comp_Complaint.pdf]
The plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit are seeking class-action status and are hoping to bring about major change in the way workers’ compensation benefits are administered in California.
A Loophole in California’s Workers’ Compensation System
While current law prohibits workers’ compensation claims from being denied due to an employee’s gender, a loophole in the system has shortchanged female workers. By citing “pre-existing conditions” that exclusively or predominantly affect women, like breast cancer and carpal tunnel syndrome, female workers are often provided less benefits for the same injury or illness than a male worker.
The suit brought against California state agencies that oversee the distribution of workers’ compensation benefits asks the court to find that these actions violate both state and federal law, including the Equal Protections clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The Future of Gender Bias in the Workers’ Compensation System
In 2015, legislation that would have addressed the concerns about breast cancer, carpal tunnel syndrome, and a few other conditions was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. However, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez submitted a revised version of the bill in January, and the California Assembly approved it in June. This victory is a significant step forward in eliminating discriminatory practices in California’s workers’ compensation system.
Bill 1643, which was co-authored by Assemblyman David Chiu, makes the impairment rating for injuries resulting from work-related breast cancer equivalent to the rating for prostate cancer. The bill also “prevents doctors from taking pregnancy, menopause, osteoporosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or psychiatric disability impairment caused by any of these conditions into account when making an apportionment decision for injuries,” according to a press release from the office of Assemblywoman Gonzalez. [http://asmdc.org/members/a80/news-room/press-releases/gonzalez-bill-to-end-gender-bias-in-workers-comp-wins-committee-approval] The bill will next be considered in the senate.
Have You Been a Victim of Gender Bias?
At the Law Offices of Gerald D. Brody & Associates, we are committed to the fight against gender inequality in the workers’ compensation system. If you think you have experienced gender bias based on one of the “pre-existing conditions” mentioned above, give us a call to see if you may be entitled to additional benefits. Your initial consultation is free, and the only legal fees you’ll pay come directly out of your settlement.