The coffee chain 85°C must pay an employee NT$74,000 in damages after she developed constrictive tenosynovitis and tendinitis due to long hours of work, the Taichung District Court ruled on Thursday.
The plaintiff, surnamed Wang (王), started working at the company’s centralized factory in Greater Taichung’s Nantun District (南屯) in 2005. Tasked with packaging, Wang said she had to maintain a fixed posture for three to eight hours per day, during which she had to cut 100 to 250 frozen cakes.
In April 2010, Wang visited a doctor because of chronic hand pain. She was diagnosed with constrictive tenosynovitis, commonly known as trigger finger syndrome, in her right thumb and also tendinitis.
Constrictive tenosynovitis is a condition where the superficial and deep flexor tendon of the finger becomes inflamed and the tendon experiences a nodular enlargement, either making the finger painful to move or sometimes locking it in place. The condition usually occurs in the index or ring finger, but occasionally in the thumbs as well.
After quitting her job in May 2010, Wang obtained medical proof from the China University University Hospital that her injuries were occupational, winning her NT$117,000 in compensation from the Labor Insurance Bureau. She also filed suit against 85°C, seeking NT$333,000 in compensation.
Though 85°C denied that Wang’s injuries resulted from her work, the judge in the ruling said the doctor’s diagnosis confirmed that her condition had come from overly repetitive actions of grabbing and holding things.
However, as the company had not violated labor regulations nor asked Wang to work beyond normal hours, there was no basis for her demand for psychologically related compensation, the ruling said.
Saying that Wang had lost income of more than 200 workdays due to her injuries, the court ruled that the firm must pay her NT$74,000 in damages.
Chung Ching-ju (鐘靜如), the company’s public relations and sales director, said it would consult with its lawyers on how to react after it received the ruling in writing.
However, Chung said the company had centralized its factories prior to 2005 and cakes were all cut by machines. Unless certain occasions required production that exceeded the machines’ capacity, it would not need to have its staff slicing cakes, she said.
Wang was also a deputy section chief, Chung said, which meant she was not slicing cakes everyday because she would have had management duties aside from her routine work.
It was impossible to slice that many cakes a day, Chung added.
According to regulations, medical staff must first visit the working environment prior to awarding the patient proof of injury, Chung said the company doubted the veracity of the medical proof as the doctor who signed the certificate had not visited the factory.