Are workers who develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) or other types of Repetitive Stress injuries (RSI) protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act?

A. Yes. Courts have ruled that in situations where CTS and RSI progress to the state in which they are considered “serious and permanent” (some degree of nerve damage, surgery), they qualify as “disabilities” under the ADA. One of the protections afforded workers with CTS under the ADA require employers to provide them with a “reasonable accommodation” to allow them to perform the basic functions of their job.

An employer of a computer operator with CTS might be required to accommodate the worker with:

  • an ergonomically modified work station;
  • reduction in computer work from 8 hours to 4 or 5 hours per day, allowing the worker to perform non-computer related tasks for a portion of the day;
  • voice activated software;
  • and if qualified, transfer the computer operator to a different job within the company which does not require computer work.

By denying a “reasonable accommodation” to a worker with CTS, the employer will be deemed to have engaged in prohibited discrimination under the ADA.