In this Blog we often note the dangers of occupations that mix physical labor and heavy machinery. Jobs in construction, maintenance, and agriculture present clear dangers to workers through mixing heavy physical demands and close proximity to powerful machinery. However, a less noted danger exists for those who work supposedly safe “desk” jobs that require long hours in a sedentary position.
Recently, a New Jersey appeals court ruled that the husband of an obese woman who developed a blood clot after working long hours at her home office and subsequently died was eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Cathleen Renner was a long-time employee of AT&T when she sat at her desk working overnight to finish a project at her home office. During this extended work session she developed a blood clot in her leg, which traveled to her lungs killing her.
AT&T appealed her husband’s original claim, arguing that there were multiple factors at work in the woman’s death. Ms. Renner weighed over 300 pounds and had recently begun a birth control regimen, both factors that increase developing blood clots. AT&T employed a medical expert who made the case that these factors contributed to her death and thus attributing the cause of her death to desk work should be perceived with extreme skepticism.
However, Renner’s husband’s lawyer pointed out that a long episode of desk work is a “risk in and of itself.”
The appellate court agreed. Although the court did acknowledge that Ms. Renner did lead a sedentary life “in and out of work,” she was forced to be even more inactive behind her desk. Doctors did agree that the specific clot that led to her death formed during her marathon work session, and as such, the husband’s workers compensation claim did have merit.
While it is possible that AT&T might appeal the ruling to State Supreme Court, this ruling should give hope to millions of Americans who suffer a range of conditions from carpal tunnel syndrome to obesity, as a result of the restricted movement demanded by desk jobs. In fact, several recent studies affirm that sedentary work can lead to a range of dehabilitating syndromes and diseases.
This case raises important questions that every “desk job” worker should think about. Millions of Americans labor long hours sitting behind desks and subsequently suffer a range of injuries and symptoms as a result.
If you are a worker who feels that their desk work has led to an injury or syndrome, you should immediately seek medical care. You should then contact an experienced Washington Workers Compensation Attorney at Emery Reddy to serve as your advocate through the Labors & Industries compensation process.