Blog Master G

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Victory for the Little Guy

Friday, March 21st, 2003 · 1 Comment

Sadly, it is not often that The Man is issued a blow that will effect change. Typically, big corporations and insurance companies have their way with individuals like you and me. From time to time, though, judges or juries who understand that they have the power to make a difference in this corrupt world will issue an award that will give an insurance company or Big Tobacco a wake-up call that hopefully makes them think hard before screwing the individual to help the bottom line.

Today there is another small victory in the ongoing fight to make The Man re-examine his policies, conduct, and general attitude of power over the Little Guy.


On May 29, 2001 I started work at a small company in San Francisco whose office occupies an old warehouse with poor ventilation and is adjacent to an auto body shop (I have since left said company). A little more than a month later — on or around July 4, 2001 — I developed an incessant cough and breathing problems. In October 2001 I was diagnosed with asthma and began to depend on Albuterol inhalers throughout the day, especially to walk up hills, ski, and even sleep at night. The breathing never got any better and the cough never went away. In June 2002 I began to take a steroid-based inhaler, Pulmicort, twice per day. I continue to pump my lungs full of chemicals that may some day be deemed harmful.

My employer was aware of my breathing problems and knew about the black sheets of powder, mysteriously released from the HVAC system, which coated my desk and computer many mornings. The Powers That Be did little to address my concerns. They told me they were looking into it and trying to solve the problem. But I got the feeling that they didn’t want the hassle or expense of relocating to a new building or fixing the problem with the HVAC system.

Justice has been done: Judge Larry W. Quan of the State of California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board ruled in my favor. I certainly wasn’t awarded the millions that really get the attention of insurance companies and corporate policyholders, but it was a small victory nonetheless. (And I didn’t even have to appear before the judge; my attorney simply had me sign an “Order Approving Compromise & Release” in the hallway.)

This judgment will certainly not make my asthma go away or change the ways of the insurance company that had initially rejected my claim. But maybe, just maybe the small increase in insurance premiums as a result of this ruling will make my former employer think twice next time an employee’s health is at risk — and will take complaints more seriously.

Tags: anecdotes

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Dave Reed // Mar 21, 2003 at 4:46 pm

    Congrats, Gabe! Kind of a bittersweet victory, but at least it should make a difference for others.