What is Atrophy?

Atrophy is a partial or complete wasting away of a part of the body. Causes include poor nutrition, poor circulation, lack of exercise, and tissue disease. Generally, atrophy is a general physiological process of the breakdown of tissues. Some atrophy is normal, such as the shrinkage of tonsils in adolescence, but others are the result of a disease, such as breast or muscle atrophy.

Atrophy can also be caused by a lack of mobility. For example, an individual on bedrest may develop atrophy in his or her legs. Further, as an individual ages, there is usually a general decrease in bone and muscle mass, and this condition is called sarcopenia. Unless severe, a sufferer can usually reverse this type of atrophy through exercise. Other treatments include whirlpool baths and heat application.

Ways in Which You Might be Discriminated Against Because of Atrophy
  • 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 accommodate your need to undergo exercise therapy
How the Law Protects You if You Have Atrophy

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)
  • 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 atrophy can certainly be a disability, deserving of protection from discrimination, as long as the atrophy limits the individual's ability to work.

The employer has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with atrophy so as to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Usually, this will require an employer to allow an individual with atrophy a reasonable time off of work to undergo exercise therapy. The law will protect an employee whose employer does not provide these necessary accommodations, unless accommodating the employee would place an undue burden on the employer.

Further Information