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Working with Diabetes: Know Your Rights

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Navigating your way through workplace concerns when you have diabetes might seem confusing, especially if you aren't aware of the laws that protect you in order to ensure you're provided fair treatment. Many federal and state laws allow diabetics the same rights that are given to persons with other disabilities, which can make the day-to-day management of diabetes easier to handle, regardless of what type of job you have.


In most cases, you are in no way required to disclose that you have diabetes before you are offered a job. However, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), some professions that have legal rules regarding physical qualification may ask you to disclose your diabetes in order to be considered for the position. Fire fighters, police officers, or commercial airline pilots may fall into this category. In cases where you might want to prove that discriminatory action was taken because of your diabetes, know that anti-discrimination laws only protect you if your employer has knowledge of your disability.

Eating Schedule

Diabetics are also entitled to eat whenever they need to, which includes both meals and snacks. You are also allowed time to check insulin levels, take medications or use the restroom, as well as a safe place to rest if you experience hypoglycemia. If you have diabetes, you can also request that your schedule be modified so that you have enough breaks. For example, you're entitled to ask for a straight shift if a rotating shift would pose too many challenges.

Reasonable Accomodations

Other rights fall into the category of "reasonable accommodations," and include things like the right to a stool or chair if you have a job that requires standing or time off for education on diabetes management. Essentially, reasonable accommodations include things that would help you manage your condition while enabling you to be the most productive on the job.

Medical Leave

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects individuals who have to miss work due to a serious health condition - or to care for a family member who has one. Diabetes does qualify as a serious condition if it requires that you go to the doctor at least twice a year or if it requires hospitalization. Under the FMLA law, your employer is required to allow you up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Qualifying for this leave, however, means you must have worked for the same employer for 12 consecutive months and for at least 1,250 hours, according to the ADA. 

Source: ADA, Healthline

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