Andrea Markowitz, Ph.D.
November 2, 2009
Your employer cannot discriminate against you on the basis of your diabetes. Learn why, and what to do if you believe you're a victim of workplace discrimination.
Employment Protection for Diabetics
Some employers assume that people with chronic illnesses such as diabetes will not perform their jobs optimally, and they discriminate against qualified individuals with chronic illnesses in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation or job training. But chronic illnesses such as diabetes can qualify as a disability under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the 2008 Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). Therefore, treating an employee unfairly due to the person's disability constitutes illegal discrimination.
People with disabilities who work for a firm that has 15 or more employees are protected by the ADA and ADAAA against employment discrimination on the basis of their disability, as long as they can perform the essential duties of their job with or without "reasonable accommodation." So make sure you have an up-to-date job description that lists your job's essential duties in case you need to prove that you can perform the essential duties of your job. Ask for the job description when you're applying for a job, too.
Employers do have the right to refuse employment to persons with a disability if the employer can demonstrate legitimate safety concerns on a case-by-case basis.
Reasonable accommodation refers to modifications or adjustments that employers are required by law to make so qualified employees with disabilities can perform their job successfully, as long as the accommodation does not cause undue financial or practical hardship to the employer. Most of the adjustments diabetics require are easy for employers to accommodate.
For instance, allowing diabetics to schedule a time and place to check blood glucose levels, self-administer medications or eat or drink to manage blood glucose levels, or giving magnifying software or a larger computer screen to diabetics who have diabetes-related vision problems would not be considered undue hardships, and the employer would be required by law to make these accommodations.
Where to Find Help
For questions or concerns about your workplace rights visit the American Diabetes Association; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and WorkPlaceFairness.
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