East County News Service
October 7, 2015 (Sacramento) – Governor Jerry Brown has vetoed Assembly Bill 305, a measure that sought to eliminate gender bias against female employees in the awarding of workers’ compensation benefits in California.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), author of the bill, issued a statement voicing disappointment in the Governor’s action. “I have said time and time again how much I admire and believe in this governor, but on this issue, he is dead wrong. With all due respect, a woman’s breasts are worth as much as the prostate of a male coworker and they should be valued as such if they were lost in a workplace injury,” said Gonzalez, a former labor leader and the Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace.
She added, “Women should not be penalized for being pregnant or going through menopause, or be told the loss of a breast due to cancer acquired in the workplace has no value in California’s workers compensation system. I remain more committed than ever to continuing this fight for true equality in the workplace.”
While current workers compensation law prohibits workers’ compensation claims to be expressly denied because of an employee’s gender, age, religion or several other characteristics, a loophole in California’s workers compensation system has shortchanged female workers by citing “pre-existing conditions” that exclusively or predominantly affect women. The result is that female workers are often compensated less for the same injury than a male worker.
Under continuing law, employees filing a workers’ compensation claim must be examined by a physician who is required by current law to state the disability and its cause. The doctor's report must apportion what approximate percentage of the disability was caused by the work activity versus other factors, which have included many of the so-called “pre-existing conditions” that Gonzalez’s Assembly Bill 305 would have eliminated from being considered when determining an injured female employee’s claim: pregnancy and menopause.
AB 305 also would have prevented psychiatric disability or impairment caused by any of those conditions, or by contemporaneous instances of sexual harassment, from being considered when apportioning a work injury. Additionally, AB 305 would have required that workplace injuries that cause breast cancer do not receive a lower workers’ compensation rating than the rating for prostate cancer.
The measure passed the Legislature with bipartisan support including 9 Assembly Republicans, but was opposed by business groups including the California Chamber of Commerce, California Retailers Association, and the Association of California Insurance Companies.