February is Black History Month, and while we honor the accomplishments of courageous leaders of the past, we must acknowledge present inequities and continue the work to purge racial bias from our workers’ compensation system and from ourselves.
To address a small piece of the inequities in our system, CAAA has focused legislative efforts on correcting the injustice of using race and other genetic factors in apportionment of disability, and we’ll be bringing that to the forefront again in 2021.
After being put aside last year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) has again agreed to carry a bill that would prohibit consideration of race, religious creed, color, national origin, age, gender, marital status, sex, sexual identity, sexual orientation, or genetic characteristics to determine the approximate percentage of the permanent disability caused by other factors" before and after the industrial injury.
Similar legislation has made it through the legislature in the past, only to be vetoed by the governor at the time. We’re hoping for a different outcome this year.
As we look at making fixes to the system, we must also look at addressing inherent biases in ourselves.
The 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge©, conceived and published by diversity expert Eddie Moore, Jr. in 2014, presents an opportunity to challenge our own notions of social justice, including those of us who believe we’re already allies in the ongoing movement for equality.
Several Sections of the American Bar Association have advocated for their members to participate in variations of the challenge over the last year. As members of the workers’ compensation community, we encourage you to take the challenge as well, whether in 21 days or over the course of several months, however long it might take to complete.
Borne of an economy flush with systemic racism, people of color are often forced into more dangerous lower-wage jobs, and therefore, are more likely to be injured on the job.
As attorneys who represent these injured workers, it’s imperative to address racial bias in the workers’ compensation system and ourselves to help make the ideal of equal justice under the law a reality.