MAY 2, 2016


JOHN@CAAA.ORG ∣ 916-444-5155


Gender Bias Debate Raises Civil Rights Violations

California Department of Industrial Relations Looks to Avoid Lawsuit

(SACRAMENTO) – As state lawmakers advance proposed laws through the legislative process this year, one issue has resurfaced in a big way: gender bias in workers’ compensation.

On April 20th, as the Assembly Insurance Committee approved a second-effort bill to address the issue, the California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) received a letter pointing out constitutional violations in the state’s workers’ compensation scheme. The letter, signed by a coalition of nationally recognized legal authorities, warned that if the administration did not act to correct gender based discriminatory policies, legal action would be pursued.

“The state is operating and sanctioning a system of workers’ compensation that systematically discriminates against women—contravening basic federal and state equal protection principles,” said Kathryn Eidmann of Public Counsel, one of the letter’s signees, after a February presentation on the topic to a room full of Sacramento’s Capitol staffers.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the author of the bill seeking to eliminate gender bias in the state system, was stymied in her efforts to help the state avoid a civil rights discrimination lawsuit last year when Governor Brown vetoed a similar bill—stating that Gonzalez misunderstands California’s current standard.

On the contrary, it’s clear from the letter addressed to DIR that the administration misunderstands federal and state anti-discrimination laws. “Being a woman is not a preexisting condition,” states the letter. “The State’s administration…has not only failed to prevent or prohibit impermissible gender discrimination, but has affirmatively perpetuated and contributed to gender bias through its appointment and certification practices.”

“A woman’s breasts are worth just as much as a man’s prostate,” said Gonzalez in a statement released after the approval of her bill. “It’s long past time that we had a workers’ compensation system that reflected true gender equality.”

DIR has until May 20th to indicate how the administration intends to comply with state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Should DIR fail to respond in a timely manner, the letter states that the coalition “will have no alternative but to pursue litigation to vindicate the equal protection rights of women workers in California.”

To view the letter addressed to DIR, click here.