Anju Goel, MD, is board-certified in internal medicine. She has over 10 years of experience in the California public health system addressing communicable disease, health policy, and disaster preparedness.
Diabetes and the workplace don’t always mesh well. That’s why laws are in place to protect you from discrimination because of your condition.
Even though you’re legally protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), you may face problems at work. Understanding the laws can also help you better blend work and diabetes management.
This article discusses your rights regarding diabetes and the workplace, what reasonable accommodations might help, and what to do if you face discrimination.
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You’re protected from employment discrimination if you’re a “qualified individual with a disability.” This means you are qualified for the job you have or are applying for, can perform the required duties (with or without reasonable accommodation), and have a disability.
You’re considered a person with a disability if:
At work, you have certain rights that are protected by the law. You have the right to:
Laws offer you many kinds of protection in the workplace, whether you’re applying for a job or already working.
When you apply for a job, an employer cannot ask if you are disabled or ask about the nature or severity of your disability. They also cannot:

You don't need to tell your employer that you have a disability unless you ask for reasonable accommodation or apply for medical leave. The employer cannot:
The employer can ask whether you're able to perform the job (with or without reasonable accommodation). They can also:
Usually, people with diabetes only need minor changes that don’t inconvenience or cause significant expenses to the employer. Some examples of reasonable accommodation include:
Reasonable accommodation can require that your employer make an exception to workplace policies.
You need to ask for reasonable accommodations. Some employers have a policy in place. If they don't, some ideas include:
When you request reasonable accommodations, you may be required to provide evidence of your diagnosis. Your employer only needs documentation to prove that you're disabled and need accommodations. Legally, they can't ask for anything beyond that.

If you need medical leave due to diabetes or complications, you may be protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It entitles you to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave yearly because of a serious health condition.
You’re covered by FMLA if you’ve been with your company for at least a year (the 12 months do not need to be consecutive) and worked at least 1,250 hours the previous year. The company has to have at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your workplace.
FMLA applies to long absences (after having surgery or giving birth) and sporadic sick days—but only if they’re related to your chronic condition(s) that the ADA covers. 

You can also take FMLA when having or adopting a child, caring for a newborn, taking in a foster child, or caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.

You cannot be fired or face retaliation for time off under FMLA. But if you call in with something not diabetes-related, you don't have the same legal protection from being fired. Let your supervisor know if you are using one of your FMLA days.
Each state has labor laws that may or may not protect you from being fired for calling in sick. In some states, an employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all. You may have extra protections in place if you belong to a union.
You don't need to tell your employer about your illness or reasons for calling in sick. However, they may unknowingly take inappropriate actions against you if you don't fill out the FMLA paperwork.
If you believe you’ve been discriminated against because of your disability, you should file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Commission and/or the agency that oversees employment practices in your state. You should also contact an attorney.
Diabetes is protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which means you can’t be denied employment or discriminated against because of your condition. You have the right to ask for reasonable accommodations to help you perform your job. You may need to negotiate with your employer about exactly what you need.
FMLA protects you from being fired or penalized for taking time off related to diabetes. It doesn’t protect you when you call in sick with other medical problems.
Navigating the working world with a disability like diabetes can be difficult. It can create uncomfortable situations for you and your employer. Document the conversation when discussing your condition, reasonable accommodation, leave requests, or sick days. It may seem unnecessary when things are going well, but if they take a turn for the worse, you’ll be happy to have that evidence on your side.

No, that is, unless you request reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Then, you have to let them know your limitations and how your job or workplace could be changed to help you.
Diabetes can be considered a disability if it impairs a major life activity (such working or eating), if it has previously caused such an impairment, or if it could cause someone to perceive you as impaired.
United States Department of Justice. A guide to disability rights laws.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employee rights.
American Diabetes Association. Reasonable accommodations.
American Diabetes Association. Fact sheet – Diabetes and reasonable accommodation.
American Diabetes Association. How to request reasonable accommodations.
U.S. Department of Labor. Family and Medical Leave (FMLA).
American Civil Liberties Union. Disability rights.
U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section. A guide to disability rights laws.
U.S. Department of Labor. Americans with Disabilities Act.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The ADA: Questions and answers.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Your employment rights as an individual with a disability.
By Adrienne Dellwo
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.

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