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  1. #1
    socalworker is offline Junior Member
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    Repetitive motion injury at work - employer unaccommodating

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? California

    HELP!
    I have worked for my employer for almost 8 years in customer service. Over a month ago, I asked for a wrist guard and mousepad due to pain in my wrists from typing. The pain became more severe but my employer advised I would need a doctor's note in order to obtain these accommodations. Due to the companies policy for calling off work, I was unable to go to a doctor.

    I have not brought up any other requests to my supervisor since this request and was planning on scheduling an appointment soon, but my boss came over to my work station the other day and signed me out of work. She told me I had to go directly to their workers compensation doctor immediately almost at the end of my shift.

    The doctor briefly inquired my symptoms and I showed him the large bumps I now have on my wrists, and the pain and numbness I experience in my fingers and wrists. After my exam, the doctor told me he did not think I had carpal tunnel syndrome, but its "close cousin" of enthesopathy. I woud need to wear wrist supports in and out of work, go to physical therapy, and greatly reduce my computer use. He advised that the only way to reduce my severe inflammation is to remove the cause - my keyboard. He stated he did not want me at my computer more than 4 hours a day, and for every hour I work I should take a 15 minute break. He asked me to return in one week to see if there was any improvement.

    When I returned to work, my supervisor told me "the good news" that a study conducted showed we actually only typed on our keyboard for 4 hours during an 8 hour shift so I could work a full day- no problem. Also, the 15 minute breaks were optional and would be unpaid. After she gave me this information, I was visibly upset and explained that this is not the accommodation my doctor explained and I did not want to further damage my tendons/nervous. I am 27 years old, and am dependent upon computer work for my livelihood. She apologized and told me she thought it was "very weird" that the study only showed 4 hours as well, but it is what it is. I explained I would call the doctor for clarification, and she then advised me we could go speak to human resources together.

    Long story short, after going back and forth with HR and the workers compensation examiner, they received clarification that I was indeed supposed to only work 4 hours in one day regardless of how much time I type because of how my hands are positioned. Then I magically received a wrist guard for my keyboard and mouse. My supervisor explained that my one 15 minute break per 4 hours of work was fine, as my case examiner had explained. If I wanted the additional 15 minutes per 1 hour of work I could take it at my discretion but it would be unpaid.

    The company I work for is a major Fortune 15 company, if this matters. I am seeking advise because I feel like my employer is trying brush over this situation and take as little responsibility as possible. I don't want to get stuck dealing with permanent damage resulting from the irresponsibility and neglect of my employer. They make us watch ergonomic videos, but refuse to accommodate us with something as little as a mousepad or wrist guard. Does anyone have any tips to make sure I am protecting myself? I should be finding out in a few days after my checkup if any of these accommodations have helped, but so far I am still experiencing pain and the large bumps on my wrists have not gone away.
  2. #2
    Zigner is offline Senior Member
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    I would suggest you speak to a few local work-comp attorneys.
  3. #3
    HomeGuru is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by socalworker View Post
    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? California

    HELP!
    I have worked for my employer for almost 8 years in customer service. Over a month ago, I asked for a wrist guard and mousepad due to pain in my wrists from typing. The pain became more severe but my employer advised I would need a doctor's note in order to obtain these accommodations. Due to the companies policy for calling off work, I was unable to go to a doctor.

    I have not brought up any other requests to my supervisor since this request and was planning on scheduling an appointment soon, but my boss came over to my work station the other day and signed me out of work. She told me I had to go directly to their workers compensation doctor immediately almost at the end of my shift.

    The doctor briefly inquired my symptoms and I showed him the large bumps I now have on my wrists, and the pain and numbness I experience in my fingers and wrists. After my exam, the doctor told me he did not think I had carpal tunnel syndrome, but its "close cousin" of enthesopathy. I woud need to wear wrist supports in and out of work, go to physical therapy, and greatly reduce my computer use. He advised that the only way to reduce my severe inflammation is to remove the cause - my keyboard. He stated he did not want me at my computer more than 4 hours a day, and for every hour I work I should take a 15 minute break. He asked me to return in one week to see if there was any improvement.

    When I returned to work, my supervisor told me "the good news" that a study conducted showed we actually only typed on our keyboard for 4 hours during an 8 hour shift so I could work a full day- no problem. Also, the 15 minute breaks were optional and would be unpaid. After she gave me this information, I was visibly upset and explained that this is not the accommodation my doctor explained and I did not want to further damage my tendons/nervous. I am 27 years old, and am dependent upon computer work for my livelihood. She apologized and told me she thought it was "very weird" that the study only showed 4 hours as well, but it is what it is. I explained I would call the doctor for clarification, and she then advised me we could go speak to human resources together.

    Long story short, after going back and forth with HR and the workers compensation examiner, they received clarification that I was indeed supposed to only work 4 hours in one day regardless of how much time I type because of how my hands are positioned. Then I magically received a wrist guard for my keyboard and mouse. My supervisor explained that my one 15 minute break per 4 hours of work was fine, as my case examiner had explained. If I wanted the additional 15 minutes per 1 hour of work I could take it at my discretion but it would be unpaid.

    The company I work for is a major Fortune 15 company, if this matters. I am seeking advise because I feel like my employer is trying brush over this situation and take as little responsibility as possible. I don't want to get stuck dealing with permanent damage resulting from the irresponsibility and neglect of my employer. They make us watch ergonomic videos, but refuse to accommodate us with something as little as a mousepad or wrist guard. Does anyone have any tips to make sure I am protecting myself? I should be finding out in a few days after my checkup if any of these accommodations have helped, but so far I am still experiencing pain and the large bumps on my wrists have not gone away.
    **A: the good news is based on a faulty study of sorts. Do as Zig advised.
  4. #4
    swalsh411 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by socalworker View Post
    but refuse to accommodate us with something as little as a mousepad or wrist guard.
    Quote Originally Posted by socalworker View Post
    Then I magically received a wrist guard for my keyboard and mouse.
    Which is it?

    What sort of accomodation are you looking for? Do you think you are entitled to more paid breaks than your co-workers? Sorry, but that is not what the law requires.

    Maybe you could speak to your supervisor about doing work that doesn't involve typing. For example, is there filing/copying that needs to be done? Could you cover for a person who answers the phone (but doesn't type a lot) while they take a break? Could you volunteer to clean out the fridge? (not a pleasant job I know). Think outside the box. Your attitude should be "let's come up with a solution together" not "my employer is soley responsible for resolving this issue". At the end of the day, this is your job and your health, and it's in your best interest to do whatever you can to come up with a solution that works for both.
  5. #5
    socalworker is offline Junior Member
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    Thank you!

    Thank you for the feedback!

    It turns out my employer is required to follow the doctor's orders (by law). If they are unable to do so, then they would be required to take me out of the office completely until the injury is healed.

    Fortunately swalsh411's opinion of the law is not actually the law-- I appreciate the advise Zigner & HomeGuru!
  6. #6
    cbg
    cbg is offline Senior Member
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    And which law would that be?
    Two things I am tired of typing: 1.) A wrongful termination does not mean that you were fired for something you didn't do; it means that you were fired for a reason prohibited by law. 2.) The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding contract or CBA expressly says otherwise. If it does, the terms of the contract apply.
  7. #7
    HomeGuru is offline Senior Member
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    And what opinion would that be?
  8. #8
    Willlyjo Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by socalworker View Post
    Thank you for the feedback!

    It turns out my employer is required to follow the doctor's orders (by law). If they are unable to do so, then they would be required to take me out of the office completely until the injury is healed.

    Fortunately swalsh411's opinion of the law is not actually the law-- I appreciate the advise Zigner & HomeGuru!
    For your information, if your employer has a MPN (Medical Provider Network) that provides doctors and/or Chiropractors to treat you, then you have a right to a 2nd or 3rd opinion concerning your injuries if you don't agree with the 1st doctor's assessment of your degree of disability.

    If your employer does not have a MPN, then you have to treat with the employer's selected doctor for 30 days and then thereafter, you can choose your own PTP (Primary Treating Physician). If your employer insists on your continuing work despite your difficulty handling it due to your injury, your own doctor may take you off work until you are able to work again after treatment of your injury.

    It usually takes an attorney to get a doctor outside of the employer provided doctor, to treat you, but that may be the only way you can be taken off work in order to recover properly from the injury you sustained.
  9. #9
    swalsh411 is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by socalworker View Post
    Fortunately swalsh411's opinion of the law is not actually the law-- I appreciate the advise Zigner & HomeGuru!
    Perhapes you could enlighten all of us what part of my "opinion" is not correct. You are not entitled to more paid breaks because your doctor said you should have them.
  10. #10
    cbg
    cbg is offline Senior Member
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    And not even the ADA requires the employer to provide the accomodation the doctor recommends, as long as they provide one that works.
    Two things I am tired of typing: 1.) A wrongful termination does not mean that you were fired for something you didn't do; it means that you were fired for a reason prohibited by law. 2.) The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding contract or CBA expressly says otherwise. If it does, the terms of the contract apply.

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