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Brad McClellan, an Austin lawyer, became convinced a few years ago that one of his clients, a black man who had been horribly injured at a smelting plant in West Texas, faced discrimination from the insurance company handling his workers’ compensation benefits.
Then as he pondered the long line of black and Hispanic workers seeking his legal help, Mr. McClellan wondered if injured minorities, statistically speaking, received equal treatment when they requested benefits or faced disputes.
The answer, contained in an email from the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation, surprised him: It is virtually impossible to know.
The state agency has not compiled useful racial statistics for years on injured workers, despite a 1993 state law that requires the division to maintain information on the race and gender of every valid injury claim, known as a “compensable injury.”
“Please note that race and ethnicity are rarely reported and, as discussed, inaccurate and incomplete,” the agency told Mr. McClellan in September. “Therefore, these numbers cannot be extrapolated for analysis.”
A spokesman for the division, John Greeley, acknowledged that the agency did not maintain racial information on every compensable injury. If employees do not disclose their race or ethnicity, he said, the state does not reject the claim or halt processing. In addition, the electronic forms that insurers send in have no field for race.
“We have some data...