We Fight For Employee Rights

Does having diabetes qualify as a workplace disability?

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2023 | Disabilities

If you are a Rhode Island resident with diabetes, your health concerns are a primary part of your life. However, diabetes can also affect your job if your employer discriminates against you. Diabetes is considered a disability, so you have protection under federal law.

Disabilities include medical conditions

Several federal laws protect you from discrimination at work. These are:

  • The Americans With Disabilities Act
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • The Congressional Accountability Act

In addition, states have their own laws covering employment discrimination, with some providing more comprehensive protections than the federal laws. To receive workplace protection under federal regulations, an employee must have a qualified disability, defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits the individual’s life activities. Diabetes qualifies because it limits the functioning of the endocrine system. Employees must also prove they are qualified for their position and can perform essential functions.

Employers have several responsibilities to anyone who has diabetes, including the following:

  • Cannot use your condition as a reason not to hire or promote
  • Cannot terminate you unless your diabetes poses a “direct threat.”
  • Must provide you with reasonable accommodations
  • Cannot discriminate regarding employer-provided health insurance

Reasonable accommodations for diabetes are usually relatively easy for an employer to provide. The law allows medical examinations under certain situations, such as an employment physical, requests for reasonable accommodation and returning to work after an extended period.

Protecting your workplace rights

One of the most common ways that employers attempt to discriminate against employees with diabetes is to claim that you are a safety risk to other employees. Such problems often arise if a worker suffers from hypoglycemia and frequently faints. However, it also results from many employers having severe misconceptions about what diabetics can do.

In such cases, you can try to dispel those myths and educate your employer about your ability to be a safe and responsible worker. Remember that your employer cannot fire or discipline you for having diabetes.