Diabetes and the Workplace

Here’s where you can know your rights in the workplace. Even with diabetes, we may still have the need to be in the workforce, whether it’s for employer-based health insurance or because we just need the money. But did you know diabetes can be considered a disability?

A disability is defined as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Diabetes is a disability because it substantially limits major life activities such as the functioning of the endocrine system.

What are my rights on the job?

As a person with a disability, you are protected from discrimination because of your diabetes. You will be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal law that prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities.

  • An employer cannot fail to hire or promote you because of your diabetes.
  • They cannot terminate you because of your diabetes (unless you pose a safety hazard).
  • They must provide you reasonable accommodations that help you perform the essential functions of your job.
  • They must not discriminate with regard to employer-provided health insurance.

You also have the right to medical leave to care for your diabetes. The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of leave per year. This can be used for short term problems caused by managing your blood glucose levels or doctor appointments.

What are some accommodations I can request?

Remember these accommodations must be reasonable and not hinder the job description you were hired for. They may include, but are not limited to:

  • A private area to test your blood glucose levels or to administer insulin injections.
  • A place to rest until your blood glucose levels become normal.
  • Breaks to eat or drink, take medication, or test blood glucose levels.
  • Leave for treatment, recuperation, or training on managing diabetes (like diabetes education courses).
  • A modified work schedule or shift change.

To request an accommodation there is no magic words for it. Simply go to your employer and tell them what adjustments or changes are needed. This can also be done by someone else on your behalf, like your healthcare professionals.

What can employers do to help?

Employers can educate themselves on how to keep their employees healthy and maintain productivity. There are programs that can be provided through the employer-based health insurance too. They’re called the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) for people at risk of type 2 diabetes and Diabetes Self-Management, Education, and Support (DSMES) services for people diagnosed with diabetes.

The CDC has resources for employers to maintain healthy employees.

Please Note: These resources are for those living in the United States. I’m personally not too familiar with international resources but, hopefully, it shouldn’t be too hard to find. Look up the disability protection laws in your own country to see what protections may exist for you. Good luck!


References

American Diabetes Association
CDC
US EEOC
dQ&A
diaTribe

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