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Suit Claims CA Workers' Comp Biased Against Women

Is the California workers' compensation system discriminatory against women?

That is the claim of a new lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court earlier this month by several women claimants and a labor union. As CBS Los Angeles reports, the suit asserts that the state's workers' comp system is less likely to recognize permanent disability in women than men and often uses stereotypes to minimize the claims of women workers.

One claimant is Sgt. Janice Page, a California law enforcement officer with 26 years on the job. When Page was diagnosed with breast cancer, a medical evaluation confirmed that her exposure to ammunition and other job-related elements was a contributing factor to her illness. However, after her mastectomy, Page was not given a permanent disability status.

"The loss of my breast has been devastating," Page wrote in a press release. "I carry the same weight on my duty belt as my male colleagues, confront the same dangers, work just as hard, and it is not fair for me and my female peace officers to be penalized because of our gender."

By comparison, the U.S. Veterans Administration considers a mastectomy a 30 to 80% disability. The American Medical Association used by the CA workers' compensation system also considers a man who has had his prostate removed to be 16 to 20% permanently impaired.

"Women’s Work Is Worth Less"

The suit also cites a growing problem among women workers' comp claimants: "apportionment." Apportionment is when medical evaluators partially attribute the medical condition of an injured worker to "risk factors" inherent to their age and gender—resulting in fewer benefits.

Earlier this year, a state report submitted to an Assembly committee cited that as many as 11,000 women workers' claims could be affected by apportionment every year. "By permitting and condoning the distribution of workers' compensation benefits on the basis of sex, the State of California sends a clear message that women’s work is worth less," the suit asserts.

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