Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a medical condition in the wrist. This leads to paresthesias (which is a burning and tingling of the fingers and thumbs), pain, and weakness in the forearm and hand muscles. CTS is often the result of the significant increase in chronic wrist pain because of office jobs that include excessive typing.

The relationship between work and CTS is controversial, but in many jurisdictions, individuals who have developed CTS because of increased hand use while on the job are entitled to workers' compensation for this disability. The most effective way to avoid CTS is to take frequent breaks from repetitive hand movements, but the use of wrist braces and physical therapy can also help an individual with CTS.

Ways in Which You Might be Discriminated Against Because of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • 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 breaks from your repetitive hand movements, so as to alleviate the symptoms of CTS.
How the Law Protects You if You Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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

Pursuant to both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, carpal tunnel syndrome is a disability, deserving of protection from discrimination. Accordingly, an employer may not take any adverse action (such as discriminatory hiring, firing, or demoting) against an employee because of the employee's carpal tunnel syndrome. The employer also has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with carpal tunnel syndrome so as to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The law will protect an employee whose employer does not provide these necessary accommodations. For example, if an individual who performs manual labor with his hands for long periods of time needs to take frequent breaks so as to alleviate the stress of CTS, the employer should accommodate the employee accordingly, unless providing this accommodation would place an undue burden on the employer.

Further Information