Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546,; Twitter: @shopcraft
SACRAMENTO, CA - The California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), whose members represent Californians hurt at work, and the California Nurses Association’s (C.N.A.) measure to eliminate gender bias against female first responders in California workers’ compensation insurance was vetoed by Governor Brown. AB 2616 (Skinner) was the first measure passed by the Legislature to extend any of the fifteen existing presumptions that male first responders enjoy to first responder occupations dominated by women. “We are disappointed at the veto of this measure to provide MRSA protection to mainly female first responders in hospitals,” said CAAA Women’s Caucus Co-Chair Christel Schoenfelder. “We continue to believe that those nurses who provide care to our fellow Californians need to be protected. The veto pen cannot vaccinate health care workers from MRSA.”
First responders, like firefighters and police officers, who are required to protect the public, are presumed to be injured on the job when they get cancer or an infectious disease. There is one group of first responders who do not receive this protection from dangerous conditions. These are hospital employees, 80% of whom are female. Like police officers and firefighters, they are routinely exposed to conditions that can lead to major health problems. AB 2616 intended to correct this gender imbalance by extending a presumption covering MRSA skin infections to hospital employees who provide direct patient care. MRSA infections are a major health problem in hospitals around the world.

One out of every six deaths in the US can be attributed to an infection acquired in a hospital. A first responder has an obligation to perform their duties in an emergency. Female workers are often forced to testify to personal details of their lives in an effort by insurance companies to deny claims. As female workers experience this, it has a chilling effect on the willingness of other female workers to come forth with their claims.

If nurses or other hospital workers who provide direct patient care get MRSA, they have to prove that it didn’t come from any place but their work. That’s an almost impossible burden to meet. It exposes nurses to invasive questioning about our personal lives – even their sexual lives – by insurers’ defense attorneys trying to defeat claims for medical care and disability compensation.

Schoenfelder said, “The lack of equal protection for health care workers is, in part, due to gender inequity. Public safety first responders are a predominantly male workforce, but hospital employees providing patient care are a predominantly female workforce. The Labor Code currently provides 15 categories of presumptions for various first responders, and all of them are for male dominated workforces. There is not one presumption for first responders like nurses, which is primarily a female workforce. AB 2616 intended to address this gender imbalance by extending equal protection to female-dominated hospital first responder jobs.”

A video from a Registered Nurse and an applicant’s attorney can be viewed here.

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