2017 marked a dubious milestone for women’s equality in Nebraska as women accounted for at least 52 percent of the 37,391 injuries reported by employers to the Nebraska Workers Compensation Court through the First Report of Injury form according to the annual report published by the court.
This figure should be taken with a few grains of salt. 2017 could just be an outlier. The percentage of First Reports of Injury filed on behalf of women in proportion to total injuries has steadily increased since 2007, but 2017 represented an unprecedented increase in the number of women employees who had First Reports filed on their behalf. The decrease in the number of men who had employers file First Reports on their behalf was nearly as unprecedented.
Court officials also state the numbers could be skewed by the fact that gender is not a mandatory reporting item and that reported injury numbers for a particular year tend to vary from year to year because of late reporting and other factors.
There are other reasons that first report of injuries aren’t a completely reliable measure of the number of actual injuries. A report doesn’t mean that an employee was injured. Not all employers report injuries to the court either. Even if an employee was injured and an employer files a report with the court, that doesn’t mean the injury caused any substantial harm to the employee. In 2017, only 1053 petitions or lawsuits were filed in the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court. Roughly another 700 claims were formally settled without litigation.
Women accounted for 3 of 41 workplace deaths reported to the court in 2017, so men still comprise a large majority of the most serious workers compensation claims.
But the numbers quantify a truth about workers’ compensation and the workforce in general. Women’s participation in the workforce is increasing while men’s participation is decreasing. Workers’ compensation is still often thought of as “workman’s compensation.” Images of workers’ compensation often include men in hardhats. Men in blue collar jobs like construction and truck driving do get hurt on the job. But women also work in traditionally male jobs like construction and truck driving. Injuries are also common in more gender-neutral sectors like retail, food service and manufacturing as well as in traditionally female jobs like nursing.
Future reports by the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court may show the injury numbers from 2017 to inaccurate or an outlier, but women will continue to suffer a substantial number of workplace injuries.