A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleges that California’s workers’ comp system discriminates against women.
The suit, filed on behalf of several women and the Service Employees International Union argues cases in which women’s disability benefits were cut because medically trained evaluators, who are overwhelmingly male, blamed their health conditions, which were work related, in part to the “risk factors” of their gender.
Petitioners claimed that diagnoses of carpal tunnel syndrome were dismissed as the result of breast feeding or menopause rather than time spent typing. Additionally, disability benefits provided for cancers that affected the male body were significantly higher than those of female-specific cancers.
According to the lawsuit, lowering disability benefits based on gender and age, referred to as apportionment, might impact 11,000 women per year. Furthermore, the suit says the state’s workers’ compensation plan violates state and federal anti-discrimination laws and enables blatant sex discrimination.
Although no damages are being sought, the lawsuit wants officials to root out gender based stereotypes in the workers’ compensation system. It also points out that condoning arbitrary benefits of workers’ comp sends a message that women’s labor is not worth as much their male counterparts.
Rulings that seems to allude to fabrications that women endure psychological disorders due to the nature of their reproductive system are alarming. In workers’ comp cases, those stereotypes can cause serious financial hardship to a woman who’s earned an honest reward but finds herself disadvantaged by the annoying fact that she wasn’t born male.