Women’s Caucus Tackles Gender Bias in Workers’ Compensation Issues
Women performing the same job as men are up to 150 percent more likely to be injured doing that job, according to research cited by the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA), a 1,000-member statewide organization that advocates for injured workers' rights. This statistic, and many others just like it, is why CAAA has formed a Women’s Caucus comprised of female attorneys throughout the state.
“I wanted to get involved in the Women’s Caucus because I believe in CAAA president Larry Stern’s assertion that the face of CAAA needs to be more representative of who we represent—men and women,” says Jill Singer, an attorney with Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP.
“And, I wanted to help get the word out there that there are injuries that predominantly affect female workers, and the law discriminates against them. I want my participation to help eliminate that kind of discrimination in the law.”
Singer cites carpal tunnel syndrome as an example of that disparity, particularly when it comes to apportionment. “Since when is pregnancy a disability?” she asks in astonishment. “There is some medical literature that suggests that carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms can be exacerbated by pregnancy. Doctors are required to apportion permanent disability to causation. So, when doctors state one of the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome is pregnancy, it only affects women.”
This issue and many others are what Singer and her fellow caucus members discussed with female legislators when they met as part of Lobby Day.
“There was a real feeling of unity; the feeling that finally somebody’s listening to us. I feel like we extended our hands across the aisle to women legislators and their staff, and they took our hands and shook them. They related to what we’re going through with our clients.”
One of those legislators with whom Singer really connected is Hannah-Beth Jackson, a state Senator representing the 19th District. “Jackson has a grasp of what women workers go through and how unfair the Workers’ Compensation system has become since 2004. I walked away thinking, ‘Wow, she gets it.’”
The response from Jackson and the other women legislators came as a bit of a surprise for Singer. “I expected a perfunctory ‘yes, I will shake your hand,’ but these women oozed genuine interest and caring. As women lawyers, we have been in the trenches for so long, hearing that things will get better for injured workers because of this or that bill, but when it doesn’t, it’s easy to become bitter about the whole process. So, to have this experience and to be treated with such genuineness was fantastic.”