February 21, 2014

Diabetes and Your Rights on the Job – Part 2

Part 2 of 2 parts

#3. Do I Have a Right to Medical Leave to Take Care of My Diabetes?

The answer is a qualified 'Yes.' The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires
most private employers with more than 50 employees and most government employers to provide up to 12 weeks of leave per year because of the worker's health needs, or an immediate family member's, serious health condition. This time does not need to be taken all at once, but can be taken in small blocks of time. This will allow for short-term problems caused by managing blood glucose levels or for doctor's appointments.

#4. Can My Employer Require Me to Undergo a Medical Examination Because of My Diabetes?

Yes, under certain situations, employers are permitted to inquire about an employee’s disability and can require that the worker undergo a medical examination. Generally, these situations are limited to employment physicals, requests for reasonable accommodation, and when a worker returns to work following an extended medical leave. This also applies when a worker has experienced a problem on the job, like severe hypoglycemia, that raises safety issues for the employer.

#5. Can I be Disciplined for Having Diabetes?

Yes, if your employer has workplace conduct rules that are applied uniformly to all employees, you can be disciplined if your conduct violates these rules. This applies even if that conduct was because of diabetes, for example, your behavior was caused by hypoglycemia. This is one reason secrecy of diabetes is not a good policy.

#6. Can I Be Fired Because My Employer Believes I am a Safety Risk?

This and the following are probably the most contentious problems for a person with diabetes. “A common problem in diabetes discrimination cases is that the employer claims that the person with diabetes creates a safety risk to other employees.
Sometimes this is due to the worker experiencing hypoglycemia on the job – but sometimes it is based in the employer’s ignorance about diabetes. You may need to dispel myths and stereotypes about diabetes and educate your employer or a court about your ability to be a safe and responsible worker.”

#7. What are My Rights if I am Terminated From My Job Because of my Diabetes?

If you are fired from your job because of your diabetes, the first thing to do is to contact the American Diabetes Association so they can help you understand your rights and the legal processes available to you.

You have a right to file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state fair employment agency.

You also may have other options available, depending on the situation, such as filing a union grievance or negotiating a return to work with your employer.”

Just because you manage your diabetes extremely well does not mean that you might not face the questions above. It can take only one case of hypoglycemia to cause an employer to take action against you. This is true especially for employers that do not understand diabetes. The more dangerous the job is that you have, the more important it is that you discuss diabetes with your employer. Some employers are often able to move you to jobs that are less dangerous. If you are a valued employee, the employer may want to keep you and be very willing to move you.

Just remember that not all employers are sympathetic and will look for any excuse to terminate an employee. This is when the American Diabetes Association may be a valued ally.

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