The Legal Rights of Diabetics in the Workplace

July 7, 2008 by  
Filed under DIABETES

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Your rights as a diabetic are covered by the laws listed below. Be a smart consumer and review them.

There won’t be a quiz later–but please consider this a jumping off point to advocacy.

If you are unable to self-advocate then it is important that you utilize your diabetes managment team, personal advocate as discussed in the Battling Diabetes archives.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: Basic guidelines of the ADA include:

· Employers may not discriminate against a person with diabetes

· Employers must provide “reasonable accommodations” in the workplace for qualified employees with a disability.

· An individual with a disability must be able to perform the “essential functions” of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

· Employers may ask only job-related medical questions.

· Employers will treat all employees the same.

What is reasonable accommodation? It requires employers to modify an employee job responsibilities and or hours for example so they may check their blood sugar or eat at reasonable intervals. This may include modification of work equipment (for visual retinopathies for example) or allowing an employee to come in late and make up the hours during medical treatments. Employers are not required to make changes that would require an undue hardship on the business.

For Questions and Answers about Diabetes in the Workplace and the Americans With Disabilities Act please see this excellent fact sheet provided by the Equal Opportunites Commission.

Report violations of the ADA to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, (EEOC), within 180 days of the incident.

Statistics from the EEOC, “In Fiscal Year 2006 EEOC resolved 15,708 disability discrimination charges and recovered $54.4 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals (not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation).”

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because they have cancer. This act only applies to employees of the executive branch of the federal government, as well as private and public employers who receive public funds. The Congressional Accountability Act prohibits the same discrimination practices in the legislative branch of government. Acts of discrimination in the executive branch of the federal government must be reported to the EEOC within 45 days of the incident.

The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993: The FMLA allows an employee to take unpaid leave due to a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his job or to care for a sick family member or to care for a new son or daughter (including by birth, adoption or foster care). For cancer patients, this can mean up to twelve weeks of unpaid protected leave.

Guidelines to be covered under FMLA:

You must be employed for 12 months or 1,250 hours prior to requesting leave and your work site employer must have at least 50 employees.

Advances have been made against discrimination against diabetics thanks to the American Diabetes Association.

For example the ADA overturned bans that prevented diabetics on insulin from flying private plans or from driving commercial vehicles on interstate highways. The systems now in place evaluates each person on a case-by-case basis. While diabetics are still unable to join the military or fly commercial planes the National Fire Association now allows evaluation of potential fire fighters on an indiviual basis.


The New York Times, December 26, 2006. Diabetics Confront a Tangle of Workplace Laws.

“Doctors, …say that with improved medications and methods of self testing blood sugar, most diabetics can do almost any job if they properly manage their illness. Yet myths about the disease persist, advocates say, leading many companies to shun diabetic employees.”

Patient Advocate Foundation: a non-profit national organization that seeks to safeguarding patients through effective mediation assuring access to care, maintenance of employment and preservation of financial stability relative to their diagnosis. Besides providing information on legal issues they also provide personal assistance.

“Patient Advocate Foundation offers assistance to patients with specific issues they are facing with their insurer, employer and/or creditor regarding insurance, job retention and/or debt crisis matters relative to their diagnosis of life threatening or debilitating diseases.”

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2 Responses to “The Legal Rights of Diabetics in the Workplace”
  1. Okay the new version of WordPress and I are fighting. My choices today were large or small font. Arrgh. So you got large font. Easier to read at least.

    Have a lovely day!!!

    • Andrew, Orlando, FL says:

      Thank you for the Article, I am deliberating on taking legal action against my former company who fired me when the found out I was diabetic, as the paramedics had to be called to the office and the boss did not like that.

      I had worked for the company for 6 yrs, they did not know I was diabetic until the one time in 6yrs my Blood sugar dropped low and I passed out, once in 6yrs, once !!

      The reason they told me for letting me go was ‘Poor Performance’, well that’s kind of odd as they gave me cash bonuses and a framed certificate for best performance award. They gave me no severance pay, not letter, nothing documented at all, well maybe I do have a case.

      I think I am going to check out both ‘ADA’s’, see what I can find

      Thanks for listening (unemployed,kinda angry, it hurts)

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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