Lawsuit suggests women are getting short-changed on compensation
Working women have to contend with a lot - sexism, a difficult work-life balance and a wage gap that persists despite ongoing national attention. Now, according to a recent lawsuit, women may also face unfair treatment in the administration and payment of workers' compensation claims.
Last week, several injured female employees and the Service Employees International Union filed suit against California workers' compensation agencies. They have claimed that the workers' compensation system denies women equal disability benefits because of systemic bias. While this dispute is happening in California, it could have implications for workers and employers all over the country.
How the system's bias could be hurting women
According to the suit, women's permanent disability compensation is frequently reduced for a number of reasons. In some cases, disabilities were linked to "risk factors" that only affect women, such as pregnancy or menopause. In others, workers' compensation agencies seemed to minimize the impact of women's health conditions.
For example, one plaintiff had undergone a double mastectomy because of breast cancer linked to toxins in her work environment. She was then denied permanent disability compensation because an evaluator found "no permanent impairment."
In the best-case scenario, a woman who gets a double mastectomy can have a permanent impairment rating of up to 5%. For men who have their prostates removed, the number is between 6% and 20%.
If these claims are true, it could mean that many women are getting short-changed twice - first by lower wages than their male counterparts, then again by unfairly low workers' compensation benefits.
Inadequate compensation for injury claims is bad enough, but it's just one of many obstacles that women face after being injured on the job. We'll discuss this more in our next post, and provide some tips for getting the workers' comp award you deserve.