Your monitor is too low. Your seat is too tall. The keyboard isn't in front of you. These are all signs of bad ergonomics.
Ergonomics is the study of people's efficiency in their working environment. Bad ergonomics such as bad posture, sitting too long, or not enough breaks, can lead to job related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) such as carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and shoulder and back pain.
So can you demand that your employer provide ergonomic accommodations?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was passed to protect employees from preventable workplace injuries and deaths. Under the OSH Act, employers have a general duty to furnish employment and place of employment free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harms.
While the OSH Act does not specifically address ergonomic standards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can issue citations under the general duty clause to employers who fail to eliminate ergonomic hazards.
Currently, California is the only state that has a standard specifically addressing ergonomics and repetitive motion injuries. Cal OSHA requires that employers establish programs to minimize RSIs such as training on the cause, symptoms, and consequences of repetitive stress injuries. Employers are also required to control exposures that could cause repetitive stress injuries by redesigning work stations, providing adjustable fixtures and tools, or providing work breaks.
An employer may receive a citation if two or more employees performing identical tasks are diagnosed with repetitive stress injuries within 12 months.
Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates that employers provide reasonable accommodations for disabilities. When an employer refuses to do so, an employee may sue for discrimination under the ADA. However, remember that these accommodations only need to be reasonable.
So, to answer the question we posed at the beginning: depending on any injury you suffer or any accommodation you might be entitled to under the ADA, you might be able to sue your employer for ergonomic adjustments to your workspace. The first step though, should be to communicate with your employer. If your employer refuses to accommodate your request, you may file a complaint with OSHA. If all else fails, consult with an experienced workers compensation attorney for help.
- Hurt on the job? Have your injury claim reviewed for free. (Consumer Injury)
- Can I Get Workers' Compensation For Repetitive Motion Injuries? (FindLaw's Injured)
- Law Office Ergonomics: Monitors Can Be a Pain in the Neck (FindLaw's Strategist)
- How to Work From Home Without Harming Your Health (FindLaw's Strategist)