California’s Division of Workers Compensation (DWC) is feeling the pressure after a group of several women and a labor union has filed a lawsuit against it. The suit, which may be escalated to class-action status, alleges that the state-run workers’ compensation programs are biased against women based on their sex alone. The plaintiffs believe the American Medical Association (AMA) guide used by the DWC to determine disability and benefits eligibility is largely gender-based and was constructed by medical examiners who are mostly male.
One of the keystone plaintiffs in the lawsuit Janice Page, who spent more than 26 years with a law enforcement agency in the state. After developing breast cancer, her medical evaluator determined it was likely caused by her years of service that often exposed her to dangerous chemicals, narcotics, and other toxins. Her breast was removed to prevent the spread of the cancer and Sgt. Page reports ongoing numbness and persistent psychological harm due to the mastectomy. Despite her suffering, the AMA guide used determined she had “no permanently disability” due to the work-related health issue.
COMPARISONS REVEAL THE PROBLEM
The lawsuit used comparisons to similar cases to define the problem and strengthen their claim. If a man has his prostate removed due to cancer, the same AMA guide that granted Ms. Page no disability benefits can see the man as up to 20% impaired. Furthermore, the United States Veterans Administration has determined that mastectomies cause at least 30% disability, and upwards of 80%.
The lawsuit against California’s DWC is also put forth by a female telecommunications employee who was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome in both of her hands. Even though the symptoms are often considered crippling, she was assigned only “lesser permanent disability payments.” Why not full or total benefits? Her medical examiner cited that some of her disability was caused by both her age and sex.
SEEKING TO SET THINGS RIGHT
Despite the widespread implications of the problem of sex discrimination in California’s workers compensation system, the lawsuit does not actually seek any compensatory damages. It only wants to remove the gender stereotypes from the system completely so that women in the future do not have to endure the same struggle. If the lawsuit is successful, additional legislation with updated wording and definitions may be required to correct the issue.
For more than 25 years, Thomas F. Martin has been fighting for injured workers rights. If you, or someone you care about is facing discrimination in the workers compensation system, or denial of a claim, contact our Orange County and Santa Ana workers’ comp attorney today and we would be happy to provide you with a no-cost initial consultation. Call 714-547-5025.