Attorneys Carefully Watching New Law on
Workers’ Compensation & Gender Discrimination
For many years women’s advocates, progressive legislators, and The California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA) have tried to pass new legislation to address gender inequality in workers’ compensation cases. These laws attempt to fix certain unfair treatment of women during the workers compensation process.
Our attorneys are proud members of The California Applicants’ Attorneys Association, and are pleased to report that a small but important legislative victory for women was realized this month. California Bill Ab 570, passed the Assembly on May 31st, passed the Senate on September 7th, and was enrolled and presented to Governor Brown on September 13th. Whether he will sign it, remains to be seen.
For several years in a row Governor Brown has vetoed similar gender-related workers’ compensation legislation sponsored by the author of Bill AB 570. However this year’s bill, though important, was somewhat more limited in scope than previous versions.
How Bill 570 Prevents Workers’ Compensation Gender Discrimination
To understand the impact of the new law, a little legal background information is helpful. In a workers’ compensation case, a doctor is required to make an “apportionment determination” that states what percentage of the permanent disability was a direct result of the work-related injury -and what percentage of the permanent disability was caused by “other factors”.
These “other factors” can occur either before and/or subsequent to the injury, and can include things like heredity, prior industrial injuries, pre-existing medical conditions – and personal factors like smoking, previous accidents, and exposure to injurious conditions at home. And – up until this new law – “other factors” could include also include pregnancy, childbirth, and medical conditions related to them.
However, AB 570 now prohibits the use of pregnancy, childbirth, or other medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, in the calculation of permanent disability benefits.
In other words no “percentage of an apportionment” for a workplace injury or illness will be attributed to pregnancy or childbirth. So the “percentage” of the disability for which the employer is responsible cannot be “reduced” by pregnancy, childbirth, or related issues.
Limits of Bill AB 570 Workers’ Compensation Apportionment
Unfortunately the new law only applies to injuries occurring on or after January 1, 2018. And, it does not address other areas of gender bias against women in the workers’ compensation system.
And, as the Senate staff analysis of the bill notes, while apportionment based on pregnancy is a troubling issue, it is only a small sample of women’s’ workers compensation cases.
Opponents of the bill disfavored it, predicting millions of dollars in extra costs to employers and workers compensation insurers.
It is widely anticipated by many that this bill may not be signed by the Governor – as it is not favored by the coalition of stakeholders such as employers and insurers that have sway over Brown’s workers’ compensation policies.
Long Beach Worker’s Compensation Attorneys
Our workers compensation attorneys are carefully watching the situation, and will report back as soon as there is any development.