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Lawsuit claims California's worker's compensation system biased against women

The purpose of the workers' compensation system is to provide medical care and (partial or full) income to injured workers. In the event a worker suffers a fatality, workers' compensation provides survivor benefits to the family members of the worker. To receive workers' compensation benefits, the worker must waive his or her right to sue the employer under common law. However, a new lawsuit brought against California's Division of Workers' Compensation and several other state departments and officials claims that the system discriminates against women.

Lawsuit filed by union women

The lawsuit brought by a labor union and several women claims that California's workers' compensation system violates state and federal anti-discrimination laws. The suit alleges that the majority of the medical examiners for the system are male and that the American Medical Association (AMA) guide utilized to decide the level of disability of injured employees is gender-biased.

The several women included in the suit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court are now seeking class-action status. Two of the women are veteran police officers who have had mastectomies due to breast cancer.

Breast cancer from toxic exposure

Sgt. Janice Page had her right breast removed and submitted a workers' compensation claim. The medical evaluator agreed that the breast cancer was related to exposure to toxins from fires, narcotics, and ammunition while on the job. However, the evaluator concluded that she did not have a permanent disability due to the loss of the breast, according to the AMA guide. However, Page claims the loss of her breast should be considered a permanent disability due to the psychological issues, scarring and numbness. She still remains on the job.

The suit notes that if a man has his prostrate removed due to work-related cancer, the AMA considers that man to be up to 20 percent impaired. It also notes that the U.S. Veterans Administration considers veterans who have undergone mastectomies to be 30 to 80 percent impaired.

Reduction in benefits based on age and sex

Another female employee included in the lawsuit works in the telecommunications industry and developed serious carpal tunnel syndrome in both of her hands. However, she was not eligible for a higher permanent disability payment because the medical examiner claimed that her age and sex were also responsible for her crippling disability. A state report suggests that the reduction of permanent disability benefits based on similar calculations may affect over 11,000 women every year.

The workers' compensation system is complex and rife with constant legal changes. If you or a loved one has been injured in a work accident or developed a medical condition related to the workplace, an experienced attorney can help you pursue the justice and compensation you rightfully deserve.

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