Diabetes Discrimination Lawyers
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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that gives civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities. It was designed to give disabled people the same level of respect and opportunity as everyone else enjoys. But an important thing to realize is that anything that substantially impairs your life can be considered a "disability" under the ADA, which includes diseases like cancer, AIDS, and diabetes.
What is a Disability Under the ADA?
The term "disability" has 3 definitions under the ADA:
- a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of an individual's major life activities;
- a record of such an impairment; or
- being regarded as having such an impairment.
Lately the courts have ruled that these definitions only apply after any mitigating measures are taken. What this means is that if you have terrible vision, which would normally qualify you as disabled, but you can wear glasses that correct the problem, the court will NOT recognize you as disabled.
For people afflicted with diabetes, the courts are required to do an individual assessment of each person, looking at how diabetes affects him/her after the impact of any treatments, like insulin and oral medication, are administered.
Does Diabetes Qualify as a Disability?
Diabetes generally qualifies as a disability under the ADA, even after treatment, since it often interferes with your "major life activities" like eating, the metabolism of food, sleeping, reproduction, and elimination of waste. Should your diabetes substantially interfere with any of these things, it will almost certainly be found to be a disability. However, if your diabetes is mostly symptom-less or doesn't really affect your day to day life, then it will probably not be found to be a disability.
Can an Employer Ask About Whether I Have Diabetes?
No, he cannot. Unless the employer has a direct reason to believe that your condition is posing a direct threat to safety of you and/or others, an employer may not ask questions about your medical condition nor require you to have a medical examination before he hires you. This means that an employer cannot ask you questions such as the following:
- whether you have or have ever had diabetes
- what medications you are on
- whether you have ever taken leave for surgery or medical treatment,
- or how much sick leave you have taken in the past year.
However, an employer may ask you how you are feeling if you appear to be sick, or he may ask you questions pertaining to your ability to do your duties:
- whether you are able to lift certain amounts of weight
- whether you can stay awake for certain shifts
- whether you are able to travel.
In addition, If you need a reasonable accommodation in your work, such as a refrigerated place to store insulin or being allowed to eat on the job (see below), then you will have to disclose some information about your condition and why the accommodations are necessary. You are NOT required to give anymore information than is necessary to explain the accommodation, however, and making such statements will not "open the floodgates" and allow the employer to ask otherwise impermissible questions.
If you qualify as disabled under the law for diabetes, your employer is required to make reasonable accommodations that will allow you to work. The accommodation must be provided unless doing so would cause "undue hardship," defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense.
The reasonable accommodations that people with diabetes usually need are things like short breaks to check blood glucose levels, eat, take insulin, and store diabetes-related supplies at the workplace. These things are not particularly expensive to an employer, and so usually are allowed. However, even when extensive modifications are needed (like changing the work schedule, or allowing you to transfer to a different department) the employer still must provide these accommodations unless it can show "undue hardship."
I Have Been Discriminated Against Because of my Diabetes
Diabetes discrimination cases are a fast growing body of law. Consulting with an employment discrimination attorney will help you realize what remedies are available to you, and how best to proceed. If you have any reason to suspect that your (OR a member of your family's) condition was behind your employer's employment action, or if he has leaked information about your condition to anyone, you should contact an attorney as soon after the incident as possible.
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Last Modified: 06-15-2011 12:18 PM PDT
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