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Dealing with Diabetes at Work

Do You Know Your Rights? You Should.

Diabetes in the Workplace

Talking to people at work about your diabetes may make you uncomfortable. It is your choice whether or not to share this information with others. Some people with diabetes will not want or need to divulge their diabetes status to employers. Others may choose to do so for safety reasons should a diabetes-related emergency happen at work. Sharing your diabetes status can also be useful in helping co-workers understand why you may need to take a break to snack, check your blood sugar, give yourself a shot, or rest.

You may also need to request that your employer make "reasonable accommodations" to help you manage your diabetes and contribute to their success.

"Reasonable accommodations" is the term the government uses to describe what employers must do for employees who have disabilities (think of the Americans with Disabilities Act). In recent months and years, the legal system has granted more rights in the workplace to people with diabetes.

Some examples of reasonable accomodations include:

  • Breaks to test blood sugar and treat hypoglycemia.
  • Being able to sit and rest occasionally if you have diabetic neuropathy in your feet and prolonged standing bothers them.
  • A modified work schedule or shift change to help you better control your diabetes.

Telling Your Employer about Diabetes
When you think it is time to divulge your diabetes to your employer, seek some coaching from an attorney who specializes in employment law if you foresee difficulties. This can help protect you.

Consider telling your employer:

  • You plan to continue to work at the company on an ongoing basis, and you want to contribute to its ongoing success. (This is sometimes a good reassurance to give your company.)
  • You appreciate the company and your employment. (Another good reassurance.)
  • You have been living with diabetes, and it is time for you to let them know.
  • You are requesting some reasonable accommodations that will help you be a healthy and successful employee. Put these requests in writing.

Your attorney may also help you write a letter that you deliver when you divulge your diabetes. You should make some notes of the conversation, and keep them for future reference.

Sitting down with an employer to divulge that you live with diabetes may be a challenge. While most employers will respect you and the rights afforded you under the law, some may choose to make your work more difficult. It is important to document everything in writing, and get the assistance of an attorney if needed. If you think you are being discriminated against at work, or have questions about your rights in the workplace, contact the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES. Remember, you can work effectively with diabetes and contribute to your employer's success.

Updated on: October 28, 2015
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