CA Court: Workers' Comp Can't Be Apportioned for Age

December 5, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.COM) - A California state appellate court has ruled that it is illegal to reduce a worker's compensation award because of age.

However, the   3rd District Court of Appeals said it could not determine the extent to which the age of the injured worker in a case involving a 73-year-old California Travel and Tourism Commission employee played a factor in the case’s outcome and ordered more evidence taken.

The matter sparking the ruling involved Lois Vaira, a receptionist at the Tourism Commission, who hurt her back while bending over to pick up some items on the floor, according to the ruling.

A medical examiner concluded that Vaira’s age and pre-existing osteoporosis contributed to her disability, and apportioned 40% of her disability to her pre-existing conditions and 60% to the work injury. Her resulting benefits award was then reduced accordingly.

According to the opinion, the case then cycled through the state’s worker’s compensation system several times on appeal before the 3 rd District accepted the matter for review.

“To the extent (the examining doctor) based his apportionment of 40% of disability on petitioner’s age, this would appear to violate (state anti-discrimination laws),” the court wrote. “The WCAB (Worker’s Compensation Appeals Board) may not reduce petitioner’s benefits simply because she is older than another similarly situated worker.”

The appellate ruling is    here .