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Gillette-Type Injuries: Workers’ Compensation and Repetitive Motion Injuries

Gillette-Type Injuries: Workers’ Compensation and Repetitive Motion Injuries

Many work injuries stem from acute or traumatic events such as an auto accident or a fall resulting in a broken bone. However, many jobs involve repetitive daily movements that can wear down your body over time. Almost anyone can be vulnerable to this type of injury, from a sedentary office worker who spends all day typing, to a warehouse worker who lifts and packs boxes on a daily basis. This type of injury is known as a cumulative trauma injury or repetitive motion injury, and the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Statute says that your employer may be responsible for this sort of condition.

Common repetitive motion injuries include:

  • Carpal-tunnel syndrome

  • Tennis elbow

  • Tendonitis of all types

  • Shoulder muscle injuries

  • Spinal disc injuries

In 1960, a Minnesota court oversaw the case Gillette v. Harold, Inc. (Minn. 1960). It was at this time that coverage for cumulative injury claims was enshrined in the Minnesota legal system. The court reasoned that it was obvious that an employee can suffer small injuries on a daily basis that each cause only minimal damage. Over time, however, the cumulative effect of these injuries can be as serious as an acute or traumatic injury. Therefore, the court reasoned, employees with cumulative work-related injuries have just as much right to workers’ compensation benefits as an employee with an acute or traumatic injury.

Following the decision in 1960, injured employees could bring claims for so-called Gillette-type injuries. At first, it was necessary for an employee to prove that a specific job activity, such as repetitive lifting, led to a specific injury. This turned out to be too high of a bar for most workers with Gillette-type injuries to be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits, and so the court acted to change it.

In the case of Steffen v. Target Stores (Minn. 1994), the court determined that an injured employee may only need to prove that there is a “causal connection” between their repetitive work activity and their claimed injury. In other words, the employee must show, with expert opinion, that there is a high probability that their injury was caused by their work activity. This type of expert opinion usually comes via court testimony, medical records, or a report from the employee’s treating doctor.

There are some important precautions you can take if you work in a job with a lot of repetitive movements.

  • Document everything. If you are experiencing minor aches and pains that you think may be related to your work, even if they don’t require time off, tell someone about it. Speak to your doctor about it, even if it’s just during a routine check-up.

  • Be honest about your injuries. Tell your doctor about what you do and how your job affects your condition.

  • Report all injuries to your employer within 15 days of their occurrence.

The recognition of the Gillette or repetitive movement injury has had a major impact on workers’ compensation law in Minnesota. It has opened up a new avenue for the protection of employees’ livelihoods and their ability to access benefits so that they can get the rest and recuperation that they need.

Do you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from a repetitive motion injury? It might not be serious enough to keep you out of work right now. However, taking steps early on can prevent your condition from worsening over time. Call Aaron Ferguson Law at 651-493-0426 to schedule a free consultation with one of our workers’ compensation attorneys. We will gladly advise you on how to best protect yourself and your livelihood.

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