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Bill would make blaming workplace injuries on being female illegal

Women who get hurt on the job in California often have to dispute claims by their employers’ workers’ compensation insurers that their male co-workers never face. To try to get out of paying an injured woman’s rightful workers’ comp, insurers and their medical experts will sometimes claim her condition was caused by pregnancy or menopause.

Essentially, Assemblywoman Loren Gonzalez recently said, this means insurance companies can treat being female as a pre-existing condition. As sponsor of a bill to make this practice illegal, Gonzalez said, “It’s time to outlaw penalties against injured working women based on their gender.”

Many women reportedly have found themselves denied workers’ compensation benefits, or awarded far less than they deserve. However, a spokesman for an industry lobbying group denied his clients discriminate against female workers when they make workers’ comp claims. He said that the decision whether to accept or deny such a claim cannot be based on gender under current law.

This is not the first time the California Assembly has considered similar legislation. Whether the bill will become law during this year’s session has yet to be seen, but often bills must be reintroduced several times before it passes.

Meanwhile, other illegal attempts to deny or prevent legitimate workers’ compensation claims continue in California. Employers try to cut costs by firing injured workers, not letting them return to work after they recover, and send the message that reporting workplace injuries will not be tolerated. Employees can fight back, often with the help of an attorney.