Workers compensation laws provide compensation to employees for work-related injuries. Often, it is difficult to determine if an injury was work-related. This is often the case with repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. An Oregon court ruled that an employee was not entitled to workers compensation benefits as a result of carpal tunnel syndrome in his left hand that he attributed to his use of a computer at work. The court concluded that neither of the two physicians who examined the employee expressed an opinion that the employee’s carpal tunnel syndrome was caused by his work, and therefore workers compensation benefits were not available. One physician specifically did not state that the employee’s carpal tunnel syndrome was due to his work at the keyboard, although the symptoms developed during this pattern of use and were aggravated by it. The other physician considered “body habits, fluid retention, and obesity” to be significant and major causes of the employee’s carpal tunnel syndrome rather than the extended periods of time he spent at a computer keyboard while at work. Saif Corporation v. Chipman, 997 P.2d 899 (Ore. App. 2000).
Key point. Many churches have one or more employees who spend many hours each day at a computer keyboard. This case suggests that not every employee who complains of carpal tunnel syndrome will be entitled to workers compensation benefits.
Key point. Church employees are covered by workers compensation laws in many states, and yet many churches fail to obtain workers compensation insurance. This can expose a church to an uninsured risk, since work-related injuries generally are excluded from general liability insurance policies.
This content originally appeared in Church Treasurer Alert, July 2001.