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Class-Action Lawsuit Claims Gender Discrimination in California's Workers' Compensation System

By Sherry E. Grant, Esq.

Equal pay for equal work has been a hard-fought battle by women for decades. More recently, there is a new gender-based injustice that is being challenged on many fronts—systemic gender discrimination in California’s Workers’ Compensation system.

A statewide, class-action lawsuit filed by a group of women workers and the SEIU California State Council against state agencies and officials that administer the Workers’ Compensation system outlines the denial of equal compensation to women workers who are hurt on the job. Such a denial is a violation of the United States and California constitutions.

Gender Discrimination in California's Workers Compensation system.

Consider the case of a telecommunications specialist who worked a 40-hour week for 17 years, coping with pain and numbness in her hands and wrists that affected her well-being on and off the job, including sleep disturbance.  And, even though her injuries were deemed to be caused by her work, according to the Workers’ Compensation system, the Qualified Medical Examiner reduced her permanent disability benefits by 20 percent. The reason—“She has multiple risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome, primarily age and gender.”

Gender discrimination in the Workers’ Compensation system is alarming, but it’s not new. Just look at the system—even the guide used to determine permanent disability includes several approaches that are discriminatory toward women workers, including the undervaluation of the disability rating related to breast cancer in a woman compared to prostate cancer in a man.

The system must change, and this lawsuit is definitely a step in the right direction.

GEK will continue to be staunch advocates for the rights of women who are injured at work, as we remain on the frontlines of the California legislature and support the efforts of the Women’s Legislative Caucus.

We will provide you with updates on this lawsuit as they become available.


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