Your State And Your Gender: How They May Affect Your Workers Compensation Award

One of the first questions an injured worker (or a surviving family in the case of workplace death) has is, "How much will I be compensated from the workplace?" The truth about workers compensation is that the amounts workers and their families receive will vary based on how much the worker earned and whether or not their employer kept up with required workers compensation insurance payments.

If your employer or loved one's employer did have insurance to cover workplace injury or death, the amount you receive will also vary based on the following two criteria:

The state governing the payouts

There are no true standards across the nation when it comes to workers compensation claim amounts. Many states lure new industry to their area by requiring low insurance coverage for businesses, while other states do more to protect their working residents and their families.

In Minnesota, families receive a lump sum payment of $60,000 after the death of a family member if that person died with no dependents, while in Michigan, if you die without dependents, your family gets nothing. In some states, a spouse of a killed worker gets nothing if they earned more than 50 percent of the family income, while in other states, there is no such limitation, and surviving spouses are entitled to benefits regardless of their income.

Other rules that vary by state include how long survivor benefits are paid out. Some allow payments up to 500 weeks, while others allow payments to last the recipient's entire life. Some states have rules allowing payments to be cut off when a surviving spouse remarries, while other states allow a remarried surviving spouse to continue to receive benefits.

Your gender and illness

Unfortunately, some states award workers compensation based on archaic ideas about gender. For example, a female breast cancer survivor in California may be entitled to nothing even in the case of a workplace-related cancer, while a male with prostate cancer is considered impaired and due more compensation.

A recent class action suit has been brought against the following four agencies because of these and similar complaints of gender bias in workers compensation:

  • California Department of Industrial Relations
  • California Division of Workers' Compensation,
  • California Workers' Compensation Appeals Board
  • California Labor and Workforce Development Agency

Plaintiffs include several former workers and the California arm of the Service Employees International Union. A big part of the problem, they claim, is that the state is using outdated published compensation guidelines to recommend compensation. Some of the bias they allege includes females with carpal tunnel syndrome being awarded less than males with the same condition. This disparity is based on the premise that women are more prone to the condition. Lawyers arguing for the state agencies argue that they have addressed the bias issue with subsequent legislation, but critics are not convinced.

The hope is that this lawsuit will force reform and a more equitable apportionment of disability to workers regardless of gender in California. Perhaps it will make other states take note that they must reform their own gender bias in determining impairment after workplace injury.   

As you can see, a competent workers compensation lawyer is necessary when you need to navigate the rules for your state and gender.  An attorney who is familiar with the relevant laws in your case will explain the rules to you and help you gather the evidence you need to receive the compensation you're due.

For more information, contact Shaw Leslie Law Office or a similar location.