Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher new bill will help breast-cancer survivors get fair workers’ comp

SACRAMENTO (KUSI) — California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) Monday won Assembly approval of her bill to make sure women with work-related breast cancer aren’t shortchanged on workers’ compensation claims.

The bill would also prevent doctors from using “child-bearing age” as a factor in determining the workers’ compensation award for a female employee whose work conditions caused her breast cancer. The bill, which was approved by a 72-0 vote, now heads to the state Senate.

“It’s crazy that women with job-related breast cancer have to jump through so many hoops just to receive the compensation they’re rightly owed,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher said. “It’s gender discrimination and it needs to be fixed. That’s what this bill does.”

 AB 479 would rectify current workers’ compensation practices that routinely run afoul of guidelines set forth by the American Medical Association. Under these guidelines, doctors are required to evaluate injured workers for all impairments that result from breast cancer and its treatment.

 In practice, however, many medical evaluations paint woefully incomplete pictures of the lifelong, disabling conditions that workers suffer as a result of breast cancer.  Workers must then go to court to rectify these incomplete and inaccurate evaluations. This situation is unacceptable.

AB 479 would help ensure the workers’ compensation system — and specifically doctors’ use of the AMA guidelines — works as intended. First, the bill clarifies the criteria within the AMA Guides that medical evaluators should take into consideration when calculating permanent disability ratings in cases of breast cancer. Second, the bill ensures child-bearing age cannot be used as a determining factor in calculating permanent disability ratings.

By saying women are only valued on the basis of their ability to reproduce, California’s workers compensation system is telling older women who have experienced breast cancer that the mental and physical trauma she went through means nothing and that her disabilities will have no impact on her ability to do her job in the future.

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

 

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