SACRAMENTO—An elderly state worker with osteoporosis who broke her back in 2003 may get a larger disability check under a court ruling Monday that raised questions about whether there is age discrimination in the state's workers' compensation reforms.

The 3rd District Court of Appeal threw out a decision by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board that reduced 76-year-old Lois Vaira's workers' compensation benefit by 40 percent, in part by claiming her loss of bone density from osteoporosis made her more susceptible to injury.

The ACLU, AARP and other groups had challenged the board's decision, saying it was wrong to side with the insurer, the State Compensation Insurance Fund, in using an asymptomatic medical condition that often accompanies aging to reduce benefits for a job-related injury.

The three-judge panel concluded that the specific payments related to age and osteoporosis were not supported by evidence. The court also said that apportioning payments based on age violates state antidiscrimination laws.

The California Applicants' Attorneys Association, a group of lawyers who represent injured workers, says reforms backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004 have led insurers to reduce workers' compensation benefits based on discriminating "risk factors," such as hypertension in black men or bone density loss in women.

The court annulled the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board decision and ordered Vaira's case back to the panel.