Workers’ Comp for Breast Cancer Survivors

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This past Tuesday in Sacramento, California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) won Assembly approval of her bill to protect workers’ comp claims of women with work-related breast cancer. The bill also prevents doctors from considering “child-bearing age” as a factor in deciding the workers’ comp award for a female employee whose work conditions caused breast cancer. The bill was approved with a 72-0 vote and now moves on to the state Senate.

The bill, AB 479, aims to ensure that workers’ comp practices follow the American Medical Association guidelines, since they are often noncompliant. According to the bill, doctors must evaluate injured workers for all impairments caused by breast cancer and its treatment. In practice, many medical evaluations do not fully encapsulate the realities of the lifelong, disabling conditions that workers with breast cancer face. As a consequence, workers have to go into court to correct these inaccurate and inadequate medical evaluations.

The bill is touted to reduce gender discrimination by making it simpler and easier for women with job-related breast cancer to “receive the compensation they’re rightly owed,” said Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher.

The second part of AB 479 makes sure that child-bearing age cannot be used to determine or calculate permanent disability ratings in terms of breast cancer. According to Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher, the current policy, which does take child-bearing age into account, values women based on their ability to reproduce, which sends a message that older women’s breast cancer-related trauma is less significant than younger women’s—even though disabilities caused by breast cancer impact all women’s ability to do their jobs.

“With these simple fixes, we can help ensure that all breast cancer survivors undergo a complete and thorough medical evaluation—despite their gender or age—and receive the compensation they rightly deserve,” said Gonzalez Fletcher.

Posted in: Workers' Compensation Law

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