Carter Craig, Attorneys at Law

The gender gap in workers' compensation benefits

Most Virginia women who are injured on the job are eligible to apply for workers' compensation. As a case in California shows, women who are injured at work may be offered less in workers' compensation benefits than men who sustain similar injuries, however.

In the class action lawsuit, the plaintiffs are suing because their benefits were reduced by 20 to 80 percent because of their genders. The problem is twofold. Women are paid less than are men who perform similar jobs because of the wage gap. Compounding this, doctors who work in the workers' compensation system are overwhelmingly male and trained by the state to make recommendations. Many of these doctors tend to recommend lowered benefit amounts when women have a statistically higher likelihood of suffering from a particular type of injury, such as joint problems or carpal tunnel syndrome.

Often, women may have a hard time determining whether they received lower benefits because of their gender. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are asking that medical evaluators who perform workers' compensation examinations be trained in gender bias so that they don't recommend lower amounts simply because injured workers are female.

Repetitive stress injuries like the ones many of the plaintiffs in the California lawsuit sustained can be extraordinarily painful. As the name suggests, these types of injuries develop over a period of time and are sometimes slow to manifest. As a result, many employers or their insurers will dispute workers' compensation claims for such injuries as carpal tunnel syndrome, attempting to claim that they were not associated with the job. In such cases it may be advisable for a claimant to seek legal assistance.

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