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Arthritis and You in the Workplace

Feb 9, 2008
A Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that arthritis limits millions of working Americans' productivity, activity, or ability to work. According to the Arthritis Foundation's coverage of the report, state-specific data shows those reporting arthritis-related work limitations ranged from 25 percent in Nevada to 51 percent in Kentucky. The state median is 33 percent. These significant statistics come with a price tag with another CDC study showing state-specific earning losses in 2003 which ranged from $78 million to $4.3 billion due to arthritis. In that same year, the total cost of arthritis to the U.S. economy was $128 billion.

A previously released CDC report also shows unemployment is higher in every state among people with arthritis. CDC also anticipates that the number of people with arthritis will increase significantly over the next few years, resulting in a loss of human resources and a greater economic impact across the country.

"A strong nation needs a strong workforce," said Geroges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of the American Public Health Association. "This study shows that our workforce is hindered, in some states quite substantially, by arthritis. Public health, in partnership with employers and communities can change that."

Perceptions play a large role in empowering those in the workforce who suffer from arthritis. Co-workers who are unaware of you arthritis can become resentful if they feel you are not doing your share of the work.

Even those who may know about your arthritic condition may think of it as "aches and pains." Because arthritis and related conditions are often "invisible" diseases, it makes them harder to explain. Or employees with arthritis may become worried that they will be treated differently or denied opportunities if people know about their arthritis. Or they may be tempted to ignore their body's warnings and work harder to cover up their arthritis.

In all reality, it's necessary to carefully consider when and if to tell an employer about your disease and how it affects you. If your company has a strong commitment to hiring people with disabilities, your disease could be an asset. It could also be an asset if the position requires someone who understands the effects of chronic disease. To aide in making your decision, consider three things:
1. Whether your disability is obvious.

2. Whether you need special accommodations in order to do the job.

3. The effort it will require to keep your arthritis hidden.

Depending on your answers to these considerations, you may choose to remain silent about your arthritis.

On the other hand, arthritis, or a related disease, is likely to raise questions in your employer's mind about your ability to do the job. It's important to discuss arthritis with your supervisor at a time when neither of you is under pressure. Make it plain you are not looking for sympathy, but for ways to resolve the problem that will benefit the company, your co-workers, and yourself. The goal of the meeting is to generate a supportive atmosphere. Be prepared to offer suggestions for possible changes, based on research you did before the meeting.

Know as much as possible about the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), items you need to do your job more effectively, the costs of these items (called assistive devices), and resources to help your employer. Tax deductions or tax credits may be available to certain employers who provide accommodations and/or jobs for people with disabilities. Chances are the changes you may need may not cost much.

Realize that subtle discrimination in some companies may still exist, especially when it comes to promotions. Some unions may have a problem with allowing workers with disabilities to take jobs that have been reserved as rewards for workers with seniority. Your company's personnel manager may ask the union's help in working out a solution in such instances.
About the Author
Acheaway is now available for home use to soothe the aches and pains associated with arthritis, psoriasis, tired joints and sore muscles from an active lifestyle. Thousands have benefited from the pain relieving power of these safe, natural, non-prescription treatments.
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