Diabetes And Workplace Discrimination: 5 Situations You Should Be Prepared For

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4. What if I do need an accommodation? What counts as “reasonable?”

All you have to do to request a reasonable accommodation is tell your manager or employer that you need a certain adjustment because of your diabetes. Someone else, like a doctor or family member, may also make a request on your behalf.

Your employer may request medical documentation when a reasonable accommodation is requested, and employers are not required to meet a request for accommodation if it creates an “undue hardship.” An undue hardship might be eliminating an essential job function, tolerating poor job performance, or making an accommodation that is overly expensive. Something like needing an extra break, being allowed to have snacks, or even switching an employee to a different position with equal status may be considered a reasonable accommodation.

5. What if my employer thinks I’m a “direct threat?”

An employer may decide not to hire, to terminate, or to restrict the responsibilities of someone with diabetes only if that person poses “risk of substantial harm to the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced through reasonable accommodation.” This determination has to consider medical evidence and the likelihood and severity of potential harm. A small or speculative risk does not count as a direct threat, and an employer must first try to overcome any threat through reasonable accommodation.

For example, if Frank the truck driver receives an offer of employment, but a post-offer medical examination (that is required of all potential employees), reveals that his diabetes is not well controlled and Frank has frequent hypoglycemic episodes, the doctor may determine that he would pose a risk to himself and others if hired to drive a commercial vehicle. Based on this medical evidence, the employer could rescind their job offer.

People who want to work as commercial truck drivers, firefighters, paramedics, school bus drivers, air traffic controllers, or police officers are required to meet certain health standards if they have diabetes. The United States severely restricts military enlistment for people with diabetes, though active duty members may be allowed to stay if diagnosed while serving.

In the past, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prohibited those with insulin-dependent diabetes from receiving the first or second class medical certificate required to operate an aircraft, though it was possible to receive a third class medical certificate which would allow recreational flying. As of 2015, the FAA updated the policy to note it would consider first and second class certifications for those with insulin-dependent diabetes on a case by case basis.

Photo: Adobe Stock/Senohrabek

Photo: Adobe Stock/Senohrabek


In the United States, over 100 million people have diabetes or prediabetes, and they provide essential job functions throughout the workforce. If employers are not ready to make workplaces diabetes-friendly, then they’ll lose out on many talented employees, and they may end up with a lawsuit. It benefits everyone involved if workplaces welcome people with diabetes and educate themselves about appropriate accommodations.

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Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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