Bill Targets Workers' Compensation Insurance Gender Bias
No Reducing Disability Compensation for Pregnancy, Menopause, Brest Cancer, Sexual Harassment, or Osteoporosis
Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546, Steve@hopcraft.com; Twitter: @shopcraft
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The California Applicants’ Attorneys Association’s (CAAA) Women’s Caucus, at a news conference with Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez (D – San Diego), today announced legislation to help eliminate bias against women in workers’ compensation insurance. Discriminatory policies are deeply embedded in the workers’ compensation system. Insurers penalize injured women by deducting permanent disability compensation for gender-based factors. Common women’s work injures can receive lower permanent disability ratings – even 0% ratings – than men with the same or similar injuries. The measure, AB 305 (Gonzalez), prohibits using five specific gender-based factors to reduce injured women’s permanent disability compensation: pregnancy, breast cancer, menopause, osteoporosis, and sexual harassment.
“Workers’ compensation insurers often treat being female as a ‘pre-existing condition’ that allows them to reduce permanent disability compensation for women injured on their jobs,” said Assembly member Gonzalez, principal author of the bill. “It’s time to outlaw penalties against injured working women based on their gender.”
“Being a woman is not a ‘pre-existing condition’,” said CAAA Women’s Caucus Co-Chair Christel Schoenfelder. “The Affordable Care Act eliminated gender as a pre-existing condition. It's time to do the same in California's workers’ compensation statutes. Insurers penalize women for being women. The disability ratings have gender bias built in. For example, a police officer with double breast mastectomy gets a 0% disability rating. Yet, removal of the male prostate due to cancer has a 16% disability rating. We are calling for equal treatment for women.”
Injured peace officer Tammy said, “I have worked as a peace officer for 15 years. I love my job, and am proud to serve and protect the public. Working in the field, on patrol and in air operations, I was exposed to many cancer-causing chemicals. I was exposed to hazardous materials spills, vehicle fires, pesticide fires, ammunition, exhaust fumes, gasoline, diesel fuel, structure fires, and narcotics. Last October, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts. I have filed a claim for workers’ compensation insurance to provide medical care and compensation for my permanent disabilities. But I am told that the book used to determine my permanent impairment allows at most a base rating of 5%. The amount of permanent disability compensation – for the loss of both my breasts – is worth at most $6960. I am hoping that I am not discriminated against because of bias against women. I carried the same weight on my duty belt as my male colleagues; confronted the same dangers; worked just as hard; and it is not fair for me and my fellow female officers to be penalized for our gender.”
Christine Pelosi, Chair of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, told reporters, “It’s past time that California updated the workers’ compensation insurance codes, regulations and practices to better address the needs of today’s female workforce. When this system was created over 100 years ago, it was called ‘workman’s’ compensation, and most of the workforce was male. That’s no longer true and California should lead the way in eliminating gender bias in the system. Workingwomen face enough hurdles without being penalized for their gender if they are injured doing their jobs. The Democratic Party Women’s Caucus is fully supportive of this effort.”
Catherine Cobb, president of Teamsters Local 2010, told the news conference, “It is time to end discrimination in all its forms, and treat all California workers equally. Our members suffer work injuries that include back and knee injuries from getting into and out of delivery trucks as often as 150 times each day while carrying packages. Cannery workers and food processing workers sustain repetitive motion injuries, cumulative injuries from doing the same tasks over and over, day after day. Women food processing and cannery workers in California also have elevated rates of breast cancer. They are exposed to pesticides and other cancer-causing chemicals daily. It is of great concern to us that women who are injured at work receive less than equal treatment.”
Examples of gender bias in workers’ compensation insurance:
Doctor stated there will be deduction of permanent disability compensation for licensed vocational nurse with lower back, shoulder and hand injuries due to “generally accepted conditions, such as gender.”
Doctor deducts half of the permanent disability compensation from a woman with carpal tunnel syndrome due to “nonindustrial predisposing factors such as female gender, age, postmenopausal status.” Permanent disability rating for bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome: 0%."
A San Francisco firefighter was diagnosed in 2012 with early stage triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive cancer that is difficult to treat. She underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, and has returned to work. The insurer has denied that she is due ANY permanent disability compensation for the effects of her work-related injury.
Housekeeper loses 98% of her permanent disability compensation – based on having had three children.
An Orange County hotel housekeeper injured herself picking up a bed. She felt pain in her lower abdomen, as if it had been ripped or torn. Her uterus dropped as a result of the injury. Prior to the work injury there had been no symptoms of any problems. However, an Agreed Medical Evaluator (AME) “apportioned” 98% of her permanent disability to the fact that she had given birth to three children and is overweight.
“… these conditions are related to child birth, obesity, age and naturally occurring events. Many women are predisposed to these problems and a combination of events can cause symptoms.”
The housekeeper was left with a 2% compensation for a 100% permanent disability that left her unable to work again.
Police Officer with double breast mastectomy gets 0% disability rating
Breast cancer does not have a disability rating in the AMA Guides, the legally required rating source. Yet, removal of the male prostate due to cancer does have a 16% disability rating.
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