Women in the Workforce: Injuries and Workers' Compensation

Women in the Workforce: Injuries and Workers’ Compensation

As roughly half of the population are women, it makes sense that 43% of injured workers in Pennsylvania are female. The percentage of women in the workforce is over 75% of the healthcare workforce, 72% of office jobs, and 70% of service jobs. However, gender disparities can affect workers' compensation claims, with women on average receiving less than their male counterparts. Learn about trends in the workforce for women, including possible reasons behind gender differences and bias in the workers’ compensation system.   

Type of Field

Female employees are found in every field, including traditionally male-dominated ones such as construction, oil, and steel production. These manufacturing fields have a higher risk for severe workplace injury or death. This may contribute to why men are more likely to suffer a fatal accident in the workplace than women. In 2019, of the 71 reported fatal workplace injuries, 58 were to men, 8 were to women, and 5 reports did not disclose gender. 

Women working in manufacturing tend to be younger than their male counterparts. Age can greatly increase the severity of an injury and require a longer recovery time. This is likely a contributing factor with men in manufacturing having a higher risk of being injured severely or fatally. Ironically though, the average age for men incurring a workplace injury in Pennsylvania across all professions is 41.1 compared to 42.2 for women.

Medical Examination 

An employee filing a workers’ compensation claim may be asked by their company to have a doctor’s examination by a state-trained specialist. The majority of physicians specializing in common workplace injuries (such as sprains and strains, joint stress, and vision and hearing loss) are male. Women have reported that the extent of their pain and injury have been underestimated when examined by male doctors who can unfortunately second-guess the patient’s self-reported symptoms.

Proving Cause of Injury

The Affordable Care Act prohibits insurance companies from discriminating based on sex or gender. Just as a man cannot be prejudiced for his risk of prostate cancer, a woman cannot be discriminated against for her higher risk of breast cancer.

However, insurers still persist in awarding women less money. Their loophole? Insurance companies and (generally male) clinical examiners cite women as higher risk for certain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. If you are injured at work, especially for a repeated stress injury, your employer may ask for proof of how much your injury can be attributed to your job (as opposed to outside factors). Therefore, an insurance company may provide a smaller compensation to a female employee, citing pre-existing conditions (in this case, related to their gender).

Many factors and variables come into play when receiving workers’ compensation benefits and claims, especially for women in the workforce. Everyone deserves fair and just compensation for workplace accidents and injuries. Make sure you are not discriminated against because of your gender.

If you or a loved one has been injured while working, Dugan & Associates workers’ compensation lawyers will work to pursue fair and just compensation for loss of earnings, medical expenses, and damages. Contact us today online or by telephone at 412-353-3572.

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