Labor & Employment

Court Bans Age Discrimination in Worker's Comp Award

Siding with a 76-year-old worker who injured her back bending over to pick up some dropped brochures, the California Court of Appeals has reversed a reduction in disability benefits it said was because of her age.

Although a medical expert concluded that Lois Vaira’s injury was in part attributable to her age and pre-existing osteoporosis, the court found that the approximately 40 percent reduction in her worker’s compensation award that resulted was age discrimination, reports the Insurance Journal.

The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board “may not reduce [a] petitioner’s benefits simply because she is older than another similarly situated worker,” explained the appeals court in a written opinion. “We further conclude any apportionment to age, per se, runs afoul of state anti-discrimination law.”

However, other language suggests that there could be some leeway, if such pre-existing conditions are dealt with a bit differently: “On the present record, we cannot determine if [the doctor and the WCAB] apportioned disability to age per se rather than to one or more physical or mental conditions associated with age that contribute to her disability,” the appeals court wrote.

Vaira’s petition for reconsideration was supported by AARP and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

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