Discrimination at work because of diabetes is more common that you might think. Yet there are laws that protect your rights at the workplace. Here’s what you should know.
There are laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, that prohibit an employer from practicing any form of discrimination that is a result of a person's disability. Diabetes qualifies as a disability. This means that an employer cannot discriminate against you as it relates to hiring, firing, discipline, pay, promotion, job training or fringe benefits. An employer is also not permitted to retaliate against an employee for speaking up or questioning his or her rights.
In most cases, an employee is not required to disclose to their employer that they have diabetes but you are only protected by the anti-discrimination laws if your employer is aware of your diabetes. There are some instances where liability issues will require disclosure, such as concerns that diabetes may pose a safety risk to themselves or others. In these cases, the employee may need to educate the employer about their condition and precautions they take to avoid these risk factors.
If you make your diabetes known to your employer and you request modifications to your job, your employer is required to make "reasonable accommodation" unless the accommodation would cause an "undue hardship" on the employer because it would entail significant difficulty or expense.
Examples of accommodations for a person with diabetes might include:
- The ability to take breaks when needed to check blood sugar or eat
- Freedom to eat while working to stave off low blood sugar
- Adjusting the work schedule for doctor’s appointments
What to do if you are discriminated against
Document the discrimination by writing down everything that is relevant, including names, dates and events. Resolving the situation may be as easy as approaching your employer with your concerns. Many employers may not be aware of the discrimination because diabetes is not well understood by the general public. Take it upon yourself to educate the employer and explain how the situation could be resolved.
In some cases, you might need to take legal action. You can file a charge with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or with your state anti-discrimination agency.
Your Job and Your Rights. American Diabetes Association. Accessed October 30, 2009. http://www.diabetes.org/advocacy-and-legalresources/discrimination/employment/jobrights.jsp