If you’re living with diabetes, explaining the disease to family and friends is hard enough, let alone explaining it to your employer. There’s no rule that enforces you to disclose your diabetes to your employer — unless your job requires a full medical examination — however, it might be a good idea, especially for your own health and safety.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for people living with diabetes to conceal their disease at their workplace in fear that they might receive negative reactions or discrimination.
Managing your diabetes at your workplace does not pose any threat to the operation of most businesses, so it’s important to be informed about you right as an employee living with diabetes. So, here’s what you need to know about diabetes in the workplace, and how to start the conversation.
What Should I Tell My Employer?
First off, not everyone is aware of the seriousness of the disease and this may include your boss. Actually, the lack of information about diabetes is the one of the main reasons that individuals chose to keep their disease private. Unfortunately, if their coworkers and/or boss lack this knowledge, it can sometimes lead to discrimination or awkwardness between employee and employer. In fact, many people don’t know how to react when they see their coworker testing their blood glucose or administering insulin.
It’s important to educate your boss, so he or she can relay that information to your coworkers. While this may feel like you’re getting singled out, it’s important to feel that you can safely manage your diabetes at your workplace.
Of course, diabetes is unique to each individual, so it’s even more important to inform your manager or boss about everything they need to know about your diabetes management plan — whether it’s informing them about your dietary needs, or how you administer your insulin.
Know Your Rights at Work
Every worker has rights, no matter if you have diabetes or not. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable adjustments or modifications that will help the applicant or employee have an equal opportunity in the workplace.
It’s important to know that accommodations will vary depending on the specific needs of the individual – not all employees with diabetes will require the same accommodations. According to the ADA, an employer must make accommodations to a person with diabetes in order for them to safely manage their diabetes at work. An employer may also have to accommodate an employee who is unable to work while learning how to manage their diabetes or adjusting to a new medication.
Other accommodations may include one or more of the following:
- A place to rest until blood sugar is normal
- A private area to test blood sugar levels or to administer insulin
- Frequent breaks to eat, drink, or take medication
- Ability to keep food and diabetes supplies nearby
- Leave for treatment or training
- Opportunity to work a standard shift
What Should I Do If I Am Unfairly Discriminated Against?
If you feel like your employer isn’t doing any of the latter to help you manage your diabetes at work, it’s important to take action. Again, you have rights. The ADA prohibits harassment, offensive jokes, slurs, threats, and more in the workplace. Everyone has the right to feel safe at work.
The American Diabetes Association has a four-step method to ending workplace discrimination: educate, negotiate, litigate, and legislate. This can be an effective approach if you’ve been discriminated against at work because of your diabetes.
You can also protect yourself in a number of ways, such as referring to the employee handbooks, and speaking with your employer to have them arrange staff meetings to better educate all employees.
Most jobs will be more than willing to make accommodations that will better allow you to properly manage your diabetes at work. However, it’s important to note that if you’re working at a job that requires you to serve the public, it’s important to research the specific job. Unfortunately, some areas of employment disqualify candidates who use insulin to manager their diabetes.