Workplace discrimination and diabetes: how to deal

Having diabetes classifies you as a person with a disability – and therefore, you are entitled to certain rights at the workplace under the protection of the law.

If you're worried that you're being discriminated against because of your condition, it's important to know your rights and to take appropriate action. According to the American Diabetes Association, there are four important steps you can take to address workplace issues if you're being treated unfairly because you have diabetes.

Four Steps to Address Workplace Discrimination

  1. Educate. The first step is to educate yourself and know your rights. These rights are broad, but a few general ones are important to note. You have the right to take breaks to check your blood glucose levels, eat and take insulin. You have the right to a different work schedule or a standard shift instead of a rotating shift. You have the right to use a chair or stool if you have diabetic neuropathy. And you also have the right to leave work for treatment or training that has to do with managing your diabetes. Again, these are just a few of your rights – consult this PDFfor a more comprehensive list.
  2. Negotiate. The second step you can take to address workplace discrimination is to negotiate with your boss or employer about the conditions of your employment. By clearly explaining what your rights are under the law, while also addressing what your employer needs from you as a team member, you may be able to avoid legal action and come to an agreement that works for both parties. In some cases, an employer may simply be oblivious to the rights to which you're entitled. Do your best to educate your supervisor or human resources manager in a calm and constructive manner.
  3. Litigate. There are times when it's necessary to take legal action to end discrimination in the workplace. You can start by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or your state's Fair Employment Practices Agency. If you're employed by the federal government, you can contact your agency's internal Equal Employment Opportunity Office. Time is of the essence in these types of situations, however, so make sure to act quickly.
  4. Legislate. If you can't elicit change by turning to litigation, the American Diabetes Association recommends that you reach out to legislators who can help change the laws that should protect you.

Remember, it is always your responsibility when you are hired to provide your employer with a request for specific accommodations you need based on your condition. Ideally, you should make a written request and submit it to your human resources department along with a letter from your doctor.

Source: American Diabetes Association
Photo credit: Chaiwat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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