What is Arthritis?

There are many forms of arthritis, each of which has a different cause. Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis are autoimmune diseases in which the body attacks itself. Septic arthritis, on the other hand, is caused by joint infection. Gouty arthritis is caused by deposition of uric acid crystals in the joint, resulting in inflammation. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it is also known as degenerative joint disease and occurs following trauma to the joint, following an infection of the joint or simply as a result of aging. Abnormal anatomy may contribute to early development of osteoarthritis.

All forms of arthritis feature some degree of pain. Arthritic pain can vary by time of day and location throughout the body. Treatment for arthritis can include medication, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and, as a last resort, joint replacement. Most individuals can limit their pain, but, at times, joint pain can be quite debilitating.

Ways in Which You Might be Discriminated Against Because of Arthritis
  • Your employer does not allow you to miss work for medical appointments
  • Your employer does not accommodate your need to take a reasonable amount of time off of work
  • Your employer will not provide reasonable on-site accommodations for your disability
  • Your employer does not allow you to take regular breaks so as to rest your joints
  • Your employer does not provide you with arthritic friendly equipment, such as a special chair or keyboard
How the Law Protects You if You Have Arthritis

To state a cause of action for disability discrimination, an employee must be disabled, regarded as disabled, or have a record of being disabled. The employee must then show that:

  • his or her disability results in physical limitations
  • that he or she can still perform the essential functions of the job (with or without reasonable accommodations)
  • and that the employer took some adverse action (such as not hiring, firing, or demoting the employee) on the basis of that disability

According to both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), an employer may not take any adverse action against an employee because of the employee's disability. An adverse employment action would include discriminatory hiring, firing, or lack of accommodation. Having arthritis can certainly be a disability, deserving of protection from discrimination, as long as the arthritis limits the individual's ability to work.

The employer has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with arthritis so as to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Usually, this will require an employer to provide the employee with a sufficient amount of time for rest breaks and doctor's appointments, and it may require the employer to provide the employee with special equipment. The law will protect an employee whose employer does not provide these necessary accommodations. If an employee, however, cannot perform the essential functions of the job, even with these accommodations, then an employee will not have a legal claim against an employer who takes an adverse employment action.

Further Information