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Work comp cuts based on race, age, sex barred by State Assembly

In recent workers' compensation defense news, state legislators have officially passed a measure that would prohibit any cut to work comp benefits based on race, age or sex.

The measure, Assembly Bill 1155 (AB 1155), would mandate that any cut in work comp benefits would need to be justified by a pre-existing medical condition as opposed to genetic predispositions or "risk factors" based on race, age or sex.

This represents a dramatic departure from the current state of the law in California, whereby health care professionals examining a work-related injury can assess how much of the injury was caused by the job and how much can be ascribed to other factors (i.e., pre-existing medical conditions, risk factors or previous non-work injuries).

Not surprisingly, the final vote in the State Assembly on AB 1155 (44-22) was divided rather cleanly between Democrats and Republicans.

During Assembly debate, Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville), one of the sponsors of AB 1155, referenced several examples in which the bill could have prevented otherwise unjust cuts in work comp benefits.

  • The case of an African-American firefighter whose work comp benefits were reduced by half because the examining healthcare professional determined that African-Americans were more likely to develop hypertension
  • The case of an older female employee whose work comp benefits for a neck injury and carpal tunnel syndrome were reduced because of her age

Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Fullerton) and his fellow Republicans, countered by arguing that California law already has legal protections in place to prevent discrimination in work comp decisions and that AB 1155 would raise costs for employers due to increased litigation.

AB 1155 has since been sent to the state Senate.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal or medical advice.

Related Resources:

Calif. Assembly bans workers' comp cuts due to race, sex (Insurance Journal)

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