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 is Sergeant 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 Sgt. 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 sexism in California’s
Division of Workers Compensation, 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.
At Thomas F. Martin, PLC, for more than 25 years we have been adamant fighters
for workers’ rights and fair treatment. Every day we hear from new
clients or read new articles about people being denied
workers’ compensation benefits for unjust reasons, and this recent story is yet another example.
Unfair denial is a serious problem in California, and we are proud to
be a key part of a growing solution. If you have been denied workers’
contact our Orange County and Santa Ana workers’ comp attorneys today and
we would be happy to provide you with a
no-cost initial consultation. Together, we can reach a positive outcome to your case.