The California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA) joined Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) for the first ever Women in the Workplace Day at the State Capitol. The day was centered around Governor Brown’s veto of the CAAA sponsored AB 305 (Gonzalez, 2015), which sought to ensure that women are not compensated less than men for identical work injuries.
“Governor Brown misunderstands current workers’ compensation law,” says Christel Schoenfelder, President-elect of CAAA and founder of CAAA’s Women’s Caucus. “By vetoing [AB 305] he is perpetuating bias against injured women.”
During a legislative hearing that took place as part of the day’s events, it was found that California’s current medical standard both misunderstands and undervalues women by consistently rating workplace injuries such as breast cancer due to toxic exposure at a lesser value than prostate cancer that was caused the same way.
“It’s simply inequitable and unfair that women in a system that is supposed to take care of injured workers without legal representation must seek out a lawyer to be treated and valued at a level equal to men,” states Sue Borg, past President of CAAA.
“The state’s standard has never been evidence based,” adds Julius Young, an attorney with Boxer & Gerson. “Rather, the guide that is used as a standard is merely a consensus from its editors that severely overlooks the long term disabling effects of workplace injuries such as breast cancer.”
Following the hearing, Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono law firm, presented legal research at a luncheon confirming the existence of gender bias in the state’s Workers’ Compensation system—research that may become the basis of a gender discrimination lawsuit against California if the state fails to act.
“The state is operating and sanctioning a system of workers’ compensation that systemically discriminates against women—contravening basic federal and state equal protection principles,” asserts Kathryn Eidmann, attorney at Public Counsel. “Those of us at Public Counsel are concerned that the apportionment process relies on impermissible gender-based classifications that are premised on stereotypes about women’s capacities and reproductive biology.”
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