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Law Offices of Bo Katzakian

Women face an uphill battle in getting workers' comp benefits

The battle over gender equality in the workplace has long been an important subject. Sadly, women face an unlevel playing field in far too many industries. They also often encounter discrimination when it comes to getting workers' compensation benefits - an issue made clear in a class-action lawsuit filed last summer.

The case involves several female employees who filed claims for work injuries ranging from carpal tunnel syndrome to job-related cancer. Their claims were reduced or denied based on gender-related grounds that should never have factored into the equation.

Their specific claims involved:

  • Assumptions based on gender: When 17 years of repetitive typing resulted in an eventual diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome, one telecommunications employee received only partial benefits. The medical examiner who slashed her benefits reasoned that, among women her age, carpal tunnel syndrome was common. She therefore received less money than a man in her position would have gotten.
  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding: Another female employee also submitted claims for carpal tunnel as a result of her work-related typing. The medical examiner reported that the condition was related to pregnancy and breastfeeding - even though the symptoms started before the employee got pregnant. The examiner went so far as to recommend weaning to see if that improved the employee's condition.
  • Unfair impairment ratings: After years of exposure to carcinogens in the workplace, another female employee developed breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. The medical examiner found that the cancer was work related but, nonetheless, determined that the loss of both breasts amounted to a zero-percent impairment rating. As a result, the woman lost out on significant compensation. By contrast, a man who endures prostate removal from work-related cancer typically receives an impairment rating of 16 to 20 percent, according to guidelines set forth by the American Medical Association.

Workers' compensation is a critical benefit for employees - both male and female. Women should never have to face gender-related barriers to getting the compensation they deserve.

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