How to Cope with Job Discrimination When You Have Diabetes

Legally, you cannot be discriminated against because you have diabetes. Legally, you cannot be discriminated against be­cause of your gender or religion. But legal restrictions have about as much to do with the real world of discrimination as lemon me­ringue pie have to do with building the Empire State Building. Sooner or later, if it hasn’t happened already, you will be the vic­tim of some form of discrimination on the job because you have diabetes. Therefore, the issue isn’t whether it will happen but rather how you will handle it. It is advised that you seek the services of a workplace discrimination attorney when you experience any form of discrimination at work.

Insulin-dependent people with diabetes are barred from em­ployment in several areas: the military (more about this later), field positions in federal and local law enforcement agencies, posi­tions aboard ships where captaincy may be required, piloting private and commercial aircraft, and working on federal contracts that require certain types of travel, as well as air traffic control, and truck, bus, and ambulance driving. Some of these restrictions have been instituted because of fear that has no basis in reality, but certain occupations in which an episode of severe hypoglyce­mia could endanger lives carry justified limitations.

Job Discrimination

A number of attempts have been made to fight back against unwarranted discrimination. One of the most famous was Joel R. Davis v. Edwin Meese III. Davis, an otherwise qualified applicant with insulin-dependent diabetes, was turned down for a position as an FBI special agent. He sued the agency, but the United States District Court found that the FBI’s policy of excluding diabetics on insulin did not violate the law because, according to the Court, the FBI “could not provide reasonable accommodation to insulin-dependent diabetics by permanently assigning them to limited du­ties or refraining from sending them on assignments that would substantially increase the risk of a severe hypoglycemic occur­rence without deteriorating the services provided to the public and compromising the functions of the FBI.” This ruling has served as a precedent for several other federal lawsuits by pilots, inter­state truck drivers, and air traffic controllers.

The Federal Rehabilitation Act (FRA) of 1973 and the Ameri­cans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 are your primary lines of defense against job discrimination. The ADA protects people in private employment (businesses with more than fifteen employ­ees), and the FRA offers the same protection for federal employees and people who work for companies that receive federal funding. In addition, there is a variety of state, county, and local laws that protect you against discrimination.

You probably don’t think of yourself as disabled, and you shouldn’t, but these laws scoop you up into their very capacious net that defines the disabled as anyone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a history of such impairment, or is regarded as hav­ing such an impairment.

In general, these are the ways in which the laws protect you at work:

  • An employer cannot exclude you from its group health insur­ance plan. If you work at a place where there are fewer than fifteen employees, you may be required to undergo a health screening examination. In that case, it is best to tell the truth about your diabetes and tell the examining physician how you control your glucose. It also wouldn’t hurt to present a written statement from your physician telling your employer how healthy you are and how your diabetes will have no effect on your work performance.
  • An employer cannot ask you for health or medical information until you are offered a job, and only if it asks all employees the same questions.
  • Once you have started working, your employer may not ask medical questions unless it is related to your job performance.
  • An employer is required to provide reasonable physical accom­modations for people with disabilities such as wheelchair ramps and doorways that are wide enough to allow wheelchair access. For people with diabetes, these accommodations must include sufficient breaks to monitor blood glucose and take in­sulin injections and a private place in which to do it. You may also keep snacks and diabetes supplies near your work station.
  • If you lie when asked a legally permissible question about your health, you lose the protection of the law.

For further quality information on diabetes, please visit the diabetes center.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care


About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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