Has Your California Workers' Compensation Claim Stalled on a Gender Basis? What Are Your Options?

Posted on: 17 October 2016

If you're a female California resident and have recently suffered a work-related injury, you may be frustrated at what you perceive to be attempts by your employer or its workers' compensation insurer to blame your injury on a female-only pre-existing condition like pregnancy. However, a group of female workers and a union in California have recently filed a class-action lawsuit against the state, saying it employs qualified medical evaluators (QMEs) who routinely blamed work-related injuries simply on workers' being female. Read on to learn more about this lawsuit and how it could affect your pending workers' compensation claim.

What does this lawsuit seek to accomplish?

A number of female employees have complained of systemic problems within the California workers' compensation system, from slow wait times for appointments to attempts to blame work-related conditions on pregnancy or breastfeeding. In other cases, workers' comp insurers may cover work-related female cancers like breast cancers at a lower rate than cancers that affect men and women equally or that only affect men. All these policies (whether deliberate or unconscious), if proven to be true, rob female employees who are injured at work from the funds they are rightly due on a basis protected by federal and state laws.

How can the outcome of this lawsuit affect your case? 

Depending upon the outcome of this lawsuit, the workers' compensation climate in California could change dramatically.

If the court determines that the workers' compensation system was engaging in systematic discrimination against women or conditions affecting only women, you may be entitled to a review of your claim by an independent physician who may come to a different conclusion than the one put forth by the QME. And if you've already suffered financial losses due to the slow approval or your claim or repeated requests for additional documentation before a claim is paid, you may be entitled to additional compensation from your workers' compensation insurer—although you may have to file a lawsuit of your own to get it. Fortunately, once there is case law on the books indicating the practices your employer or its insurer have engaged in are a violation of equal protection laws, it should be much easier for you to get the funds you're due.

On the other hand, if this lawsuit is dismissed or the state is found not to have engaged in discrimination, you'll likely have little recourse against your employer's insurer unless you have irrefutable proof that it engaged in actions that directly violated state or federal law. This may be a harder burden of proof to fulfill if the pending case is unsuccessful.

Talk to a firm such as Shaw Leslie Law Office to get started with your case.