Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio. USA
workers Comp (Carpal Tunnel)
Hello. I'm new to this forum. Looking for more information and help about my case. It's a long story but I'll try to short it as much I can.
I work for a big corporate that has restaurants all over USA. I've been working for this company for 4 and half years now. I work in the kitchen as "Pre-Cook" (the person who prepare the food for the cookers), my job duties is cutting a lot, chopping a lot, lifting (25lb to 65lb), moving my hands and arms (specially the right one) constantly and fingers also, all this has to be done fast because you have A LOT TO DO and a deadline to do it. 5 days a week, sometimes even 6 because people call off, shift of 10 to 12 hours, 40 to 50 hours weekly. It's a hard job, I never complained about it, I just did it. I'm a good worker with good reviews (every 6 months) with a very good raise in 3 occasions. I never had hands problems. Never broke any bone in my body. No illness. I don't do any sport or hobby (no time for that after working so much), you are so tired after work that you just want to go home and rest.
Beginning of February of 2010 my culinary manager came with the idea that 2 people instead 3 as it used to be could do the job 3 days a week plus your others 2 regular days as always. Because of the economy problem he was expecting a reduction of customers those 3 days (Mon, Tues, Wed), so it wouldn't be enough work to do for 3 people, that's why he wanted to reduce to just 2 workers, of course that was ME and another girl because we were the harder and faster workers. I said OK, I wanted to get my hours.
I never saw a reduction of customers, people love OLIVE GARDEN, I guess!!, so those days working just me and the other coworker turned to be STRENUOUS because it was MORE work to do in the same amount of time, I never worker that HARD in my life, but I didn't want to complain.
After 3 months (May) working in that condition, I started to have weird symptoms in my right hand, swollen in the mornings and some tingling in some of my fingers (no the last two) and some discomfort building up to my shoulder, I knew I was working harder than ever, so I thought that my hand and arm was just tired, so I continue doing it. The other girl started to complain about it was TOO MUCH WORK for just 2 people. The manager didn't do anything about it, so she quit (I thought she was idiot doing that after almost 2 years working there, NOW I think she was smart). In Aug my symptoms was worse with terrible pain in my wrist, some fingers, inside of my elbow building up to my shoulder and muscle sore (biceps). It got to a point that I couldn't even sleep in my right side anymore because the pain got worse and my hand/arm fall sleep, I was having a very hard time to do my job, especially those days. I finally decided that that wasn't normal, so I went to see my family doctor who said "sound like carpal tunnel, but it could be just a nerve entrapment in some part of the arm", he made me to wear a brace for 2 weeks (it helped just a little bit). I reported it to the manager who said "carpal tunnel is just for people working with computers", I requested not to do the same job those days it was so strenuous because I knew it was causing my pain and the others symptoms and do something else at least for a couple of weeks to see if I could get better. The manager got upset saying "fine!!" and took me off from those days and cut my hours to 20. who in the hell can live with 20 hour a week!!. I went to my General manager to report everything, she gave me more hours (this was just for 3 weeks) and told me to take care of my hand and to go to a good doctor. That was the last time I saw her because she was also dealing with a health problem (cancer) and she couldn't go back to work anymore.
I went to see my doctor again on Sept because it was getting even worse, he requested an EMG/Nerve Conduction Test of my right arm, it was scheduled for Dec (I guess too many people needed that test). I continued working just 20 to 25 hours because the new manager didn't want to give me more, ice my hand after work, rest and rest and more rest. 3 weeks before the test was suppose I was feeling 95% better, so I cancelled it. That was the maximum I got better... 95%, never a 100%, I was having some discomfort sometimes, but that was all. I wasn't do it the same job as before, no that much chopping, cutting as before, I was doing more cooking than prepare, I guess that helped it.
All this happened in WV. I decided to be transfer to one of the restaurants in Cincinnati, Oh because the person I was dating and I decided that it was time to live together. I got the transfer on February of 2011 as a Pre-cook (2 days) and cooker (3 days), everything was fine, in May 2011.... here it goes again...... the pain and all the symptoms came back since I was doing the same job "pre-cook", but this time faster than before and worse. I reported to my manager and that I wanted to go to the doctor, 2 days later my boss (an old lady) came to me very upset asking me why I didn't want to work in pre-cook position, that if I have carpal tunnel she can't do anything about it, that I was hired to do that job, so I had to do it, I had to tell her to calm down and that I NEVER said I didn't want to do the job, just reported the pain, that I wanted to go to the doctor, that it come from the past, that it could be carpal tunnel but not sure yet, she took all in the wrong way but she usually does that for everything.
I went to see a good orthopedic surgeon that everybody was recommending me here in Cincinnati. I explained him all the symptoms and he requested the EMG test for two weeks later. Everybody was telling me about worker comp claim, that I should to claim. I cancelled my test and I called OHIO WBC to let them know my case and to know if I had to claim in WV or here in OH, they told me that I wasn't diagnosed or even had the test in WV and that I was still working for the same company, so I could claim here in OH. I did (Jul 18).
July 24 I was working in pre-cook position because they didn't care about my pain and about I was having so much trouble to be able to do the job and to be able to be fast anymore. Who can when you are in so much pain!!, the manager was just giving me more and more to do without care about me, knowing from the past about my pain. Well.... after I finished my job that day and I was ready to leave, that manager and another one took me aside to give a paper saying "I was insubordinate, that I didn't follow manager order, that I rolled my eyes every time the manager told me to do something, that I kicked containers and glass. I just couldn't believe what my ears was listening to. I am 42 years old and NEVER a boss said I'm insubordinate or did things like that. Yes, a couple of times something fall off of my hand BECAUSE my hand wasn't strong like before anymore, I was having trouble to drive, to hold a pen and even open a bottle. One of the manager was very rude to me telling I could be fired and brought into the conversation that I should solve my carpal tunnel before, every time I wanted to talk to say that it didn't happen in that way, he didn't let me saying "I was being disrespectful for not letting him to talk", I heard all his ******** and when he finished I wanted to talk but didn't let me again.
Two days later I received the claim# from OhBWC but notifying me that my employer is a Self-insurance, so they have to prove or deny my claim. I went to work the next day I told my boss that I wanted to talk to her about the incident, NOW she was all ears to me, NOW she wanted to hear all my symptoms, when started, where, if the first manager I reported it did reported to the corporate (they didn't), what my doctor says and she wanted to report it to the corporate and get me a claim# (WOW!! what happened!! why now!! I guess because they got some notification saying I claimed an Occupational Injury), I told her ONCE more time that I already claimed my injury and already had a claim#, but she still wanted me to fill up the papers for the corporate, so I did. About the incident, the manager came now saying that a server saw everything, WHAT A LIAR!! it wasn't any server around, only two guys in the cook line who say they didn't see anything, so I'm guessing that they want something bad in my profile to be able to have an excuse to fire me or that is what they were trying before I could get the claim#, I don't know, but what I'm sure is that they are lying. A couple of days later I found out that one of the new guy (he was hired I week before I got in trouble at work) was working in the cook line was hired to work 2 days in pre-cook position (the 2 days I was working in that position) and 3 days as cooker, this confirm I'm right about they were trying to fire me. My boss took me off from pre-cook position saying she couldn't hurt me more than I already was, and cut my hours to 20 to 25 hours a week (if I get 30 sometimes is because some workers give me some or because I complain a lot saying that I need at least 30 hours a week to be able to keep my health insurance, seems like they don't care, no always I get 30 and I'm afraid I'll loose it). She put that new guy to work those days I was doing it, after a week, that guy said he didn't want to do it anymore because it was too hard LOL.
A few days later the corporate insurance called me to ask me questions about if I drink, my profession, what others jobs I did in the past, and that they would send me some papers to allow them to get my medical records, I did. A few days later I received a letter from OHBWC saying that my employer insurance denied my certification. I called the insurance and I asked the reason, the lady said because they didn't have enough time to investigate if my carpal tunnel was for working in this company and that a comisioner would decide it. I talked with a lawyer (he didn't take my case) told me to have as soon as possible the EMG test. I had the test and came negative. That doctor did the EMG checked in my wrist, elbow and the last two fingers too, I'm guessing looking for carpal tunnel, ulnar nerve too. I went to see my doctor who said that sometimes the test come negative but still believe is carpal tunnel (I wasn't happy to hear that, I was hopping to hear something like it's just a tendonitis), he wanted me to go for a second opinion to another orthopedic surgeon with even more experience than him. I went to see that doctor who recommended to have the Cortisone shot and told me if after that I got extremely better then they had a FIRM diagnosis "carpal tunnel", if not, then I had tendonitis and he would send me for hand therapy. I had the shot, the pain was double worse than ever and I didn't feel anything from my elbow to my hand that day, I had even to call off work, but the next day I was feeling 95% FINE, the follow day 100%, all my pain was gone, the swollen, the tingling and numb, and my hand was getting stronger and stronger, I was very happy for feeling that good AGAIN!! but not happy AT ALL because that was confirming the doctor diagnosis "CTS".
I searched for a lawyer, finally one got my case, I think he is a good lawyer "Harris & Burgin" I think they are expert in workers comp claim. My lawyer said that maybe I have another case against my employer because they cut my hours but not sure, he recommended me a lawyer for that problem. I didn't call yet, why? well..... I had been dealing with all this for over a year, the first time I got better after doing something a little different and working less hours, what confirm that my problem is a work related, when I started to do the same job here in Oh, my problem came back even worse, again confirm is a work related, this time I have been even depress.... thinking what was going to happen, how I was going to leave just working 20 to 25 hours, I would be able to have a normal life again, etc etc etc all those thought come to your mind, so many worries, no sleeping well because the pain and the worries, it's NO life!!. Since I had the cortisone shot, the pain is gone, sometimes I still have some little discomfort in my elbow after working a couple hours, but not bad as before, so all this makes me to think.... I feel better but afraid that can come back and go through the same again for the 3rd time if they put me back in pre-cook position, I don't want to suffer again. I'm thinking to leave this job and look for another one that doesn't hurt my hand but wonder if that is a good idea, if that would affect my worker comp claim. I know I'm fine now but not sure about in weeks or months. I really don't know what is the best for my hand to do.