Managing Your Diabetes in the Workplace: It Can Be Done and the Law Is on Your Side

As per the American Diabetic Association, it is estimated that an astronomical 18 million men and women residing in the U.S. today live their lives every day with diabetes. What is diabetes? Diabetes is characterized by high blood glucose or sugar levels that ensue from defects in the body’s ability to produce or use insulin.

Managing Your Diabetes in the Workplace: It Can Be Done and the Law Is on Your Side

By Marilyn Silverman

Piercing rays of sunshine seep through your closed Venetian blinds. Time to get ready for work. You grab this. You grab that.  However, if you are a diabetic there are a few more things you have to grab. It’s easy to manage your diabetes at home. There is your refrigerator and your medicine cabinet and your family who knows all about your medical condition. But managing your diabetes in the workplace is just as manageable. 

As per the American Diabetic Association, it is estimated that an astronomical 18 million men and women residing in the U.S. today live their lives every day with diabetes.  What is diabetes? Diabetes is characterized by high blood glucose or sugar levels that ensue from defects in the body’s ability to produce or use insulin. Fortunately for its sufferers, it is designated as a disability due to its detrimental impact on the body’s endocrine functioning. Why fortunately?  Just a few short years ago in 1990, to be precise, the Americans with Disability Act, a federal anti-discrimination act became law. Why? To protect people with diabetes from unfair treatment. This was a milestone since it enabled diabetics to work without fear lest their condition jeopardized their jobs. 

Gina Gavla RN indicates that once upon a time in the not too distant past, workers faced discrimination, e.g., they weren’t permitted to take breaks to check their blood sugar, eat or take insulin—the only way they could perform their jobs responsibly. Outrageous? Yes. But now you as a diabetic possess certain delineated legal rights—you have the right to ask your employer for reasonable accommodations. Reasonable is the keyword in this sentence.  Some representative examples of reasonable accommodations within the business infrastructure be it a retail establishment, a factory, an office or whatever:

  • Breaks to check blood sugar, eat and take medication.
  • To maintain diabetes supplies in close proximity to your workstation.
  • Ability to inject insulin; if preferable a private space should be provided away from the prying eyes of colleagues.  According to WebMD, insulin can be stored in an insulated lunchbox if a refrigerator is not available on the premises. The conveniences of home are not always duplicated at work.
  • For those afflicted with a vision disorder a sizable computer monitor.
  • Don’t stay glued to a chair all day since physical activity is beneficial.
  • It is recommended that a letter authored by your doctor should accompany your request.  Diatribe Learn indicates that you should have a comprehension of your legal rights due to your official designation as an individual with diabetes.

A dilemma typically arises whereby you wonder if it is necessary to inform your boss. It is a good idea to do so since you will have to justify your request. But your boss is mandated to keep this information confidential. Your health is a private matter and should not be broadcast for all to hear. You should schedule a meeting with your boss and emphasize that your condition will not negatively impact your work. Everything you need to do is done at intervals. You won’t be injecting insulin every minute of the day. Your boss should understand that these reasonable accommodations will not constitute a costly expenditure in the daily management of their business and furthermore will not cause much disruption in the workplace environment. 

Everyday Health recommends that you confide in one or two co-workers since at work we develop a sense of camaraderie with our colleagues. Explain your condition in simplistic terms; you don’t have to quote from medical texts.  Paint a picture of what a low blood sugar episode might resemble and discuss emergency plans. If you are an hourly worker in a neighborhood fast-food franchise or a corporate employee in an ivory tower and you are a diabetic, you can contribute as a productive and valued employee. You just have to remember to do certain things throughout the day and remember that you have the legal right to do so. 

Here are some types of discrimination you might experience: you might not be asked to make a presentation at an out of town conference because of the general concern that traveling with your condition will be difficult.  You may not be allowed to be on the office volleyball team. If you feel you are discriminated against ASAP consult with an attorney who is experienced in workplace discrimination. Contact the Law Offices of Figeroux & Associates; they have extensive experience in workplace discrimination and will represent you with the compassion and respect you deserve.

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