Establishing equal pay for women is one of the most important causes of our time. Not only will this help further gender equality and ensure women are compensated fairly for doing similar work as their male counterparts, it will help protect those female workers who are most vulnerable in their greatest time of need: injured workers.
The California Applicants' Attorneys Association, whose members represent workers who get injured on the job, applauds First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom's initiative to further set California apart as a leader in making sure businesses provide equal pay for women. While the primary focus is aimed at establishing pay for able-bodied workers, less apparent is how this might affect people who rely on disability benefits to survive.
With women earning roughly 89 cents for every dollar a man earns, and even less for working mothers and women of color, the disparity in pay leads to an even greater gap in benefits earned under California's workers' compensation system.
Workers' compensation benefits are tied to the average weekly earnings of the worker prior being injured on the job. Take temporary total disability benefits, for example. Temporary total disability benefits are calculated at two-thirds of average weekly wages.
If a man was making $1,000 a week before the injury, he'd be entitled to $667 in weekly disability wages. Taking into consideration that a woman makes 89 cents for every dollar a man makes, we can assume the woman is making $890 every week before suffering an injury. Her disability benefits would come out to only $594 each week. So not only was she earning $440 less each month while fully employed, she'd be earning roughly $300 less while disabled. And that's on the higher end of the pay scale.
Looking at a Latinx woman who, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, earns only 41 cents to every dollar a white male makes, they'd likely be on the cusp of complete financial disaster. Earning $273 in weekly disability benefits is simply not enough to get by in the State of California.
Couple that with the fact that working mothers are paid 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. For single mothers, it's only 58 cents for every dollar a father earns. Families with women as the sole or primary breadwinners make up 40 percent of US households, according to data from the Pew Research Center. For minority households, the percentage is even higher with 61 percent of African American households being led by single mothers and 44 percent of Native American households with the mother as the sole breadwinner.
About 28 percent, or 490,179 of the 1,751,000 California households headed by women already fall below the poverty level. Imagine where these families would be should the mother suffer an untimely work injury.
Establishing equal pay will help millions of working women provide for their families and it will also provide more security for those unfortunate enough to be injured on the job.