Workers' Compensation

California: Racial Stereotyping in the Panel QME Process

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Recently, a Workers’ Compensation Administrative Law Judge (WCALJ) and a panel of commissioners with the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) reminded practitioners in the California Workers’ Compensation System that the standards of conduct required of Qualified Medical Evaluators (QME’s) will be taken seriously. In Timothy Beecham v. Swift Transportation Services LLC, ADJ10084731, ADJ10084732, the WCALJ and WCAB panel found that a PQME’s comments that the employee’s markers were abnormally low for a person with “negro blood” constituted “impermissible racial or ethnic bias”. The PQME was removed from the case.

In this day and age of what many consider to be excessive litigation involving the removal of QME’s for hyper-technical reasons, it’s particularly important to remember that QME’s are not only required to comply with the procedural aspects of the Workers’ Compensation process. More importantly, they are required to conduct themselves with professional decency and specifically not render opinions or conclusions based on a worker’s race, sex, national origin, religion or sexual preference (8 Cal. Code Reg. § 41(c)(3)).

In conclusion, a significant distinction must be drawn when discussing the removal of QME for ethical reasons as contrasted with removing a QME for less serious and far more frequently seen procedural reasons. Indeed, practitioners would well advised to remember that fundamental to the Workers’ Compensation process is the fair and ethical treatment of the injured worker.

Read the Beecham noteworthy panel decision.

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