I fortunately have worked for great companies since being diagnosed as a diabetic where I don’t have to worry about losing my job because of my disease.
However, there are those that are being discriminated against because of their condition. Although strides are being made by the American Diabetes Association, there are still those that lose their jobs because of fear. Yes, fear. People are afraid of diabetes. The reason for the fear is lack of knowledge about the disease and the treatements.
Debbie from Right Truth informed me of a New York Times article regarding just this problem; workplace discrimination of diabetics. I found the link to the article at dLife and read with horror the treatment of John Steigauf.
“Diabetics Confront a Tangle of Workplace Laws” lays out the laying off of a UPS mechanic and how it was finally resolved; but not before it sounded like his family was almost homeless. From the first part of the article, and the emphasis is mine.
MINNEAPOLIS â€” John Steigauf spent more than a decade fiddling with the innards of those huge United Parcel Service trucks until an icy day two years ago when the company put him on leave from his mechanicâ€™s job. A supervisor escorted him off the premises.
His work was good. He hadnâ€™t socked the boss or embezzled money. It had to do with what was inside him: diabetes.
U.P.S. framed it as a safety issue: Mr. Steigaufâ€™s blood sugar might suddenly plummet while he tested a truck, causing him to slam into someone.
Mr. Steigauf considered it discrimination, a taint that diabetes can carry. â€œI was regarded as a damaged piece of meat,â€ he said. â€œIt was like, â€˜Youâ€™re one of those, and we canâ€™t have one of those.â€™ â€
With 21 million American diabetics, disputes like this have increasingly rippled through the workplace:
¶ A mortgage loan officer in Oregon was denied permission to eat at her desk to stanch her sugar fluctuations, and eventually was fired.
¶ A Sears lingerie saleswoman in Illinois with nerve damage in her leg quit after being told she could not cut through a stockroom to reach her department.
¶ A worker at a candy company in Wisconsin was fired after asking where he could dispose of his insulin needles.
In each instance, diabetics contend that they are being blocked by their employers from the near-normal lives their doctors say are possible. But the companies say they are struggling, too, with confusion about whether diabetes is a legitimate disability and with concern about whether it is overly expensive, hazardous and disruptive to accommodate the illness.
Might is the word in this paragraph. Because I’m a diabetic, my sugar “might” drop and I could fall out of my chair, or down the stairs. Does that give my employer the right to fire me, or put me out on disability – when even the courts cannot decide of diabites is a disability? Of course not. But that is a diabetic talking.
I don’t have to worry about not being able to snack at my desk if necessary. Everyone I work with knows I have Type 2 diabetes. One gal had gestational diabetes, which cleared up after the birth. Another fellow downstairs has Type 2 also. And there is a large majority of folks on metiformin because they are border-line diabetics. Fortunately for me, not one time have I been harassed because of my disease. Two ladies I work with have family members with diabetes and everyone around me knows where my glucose tablets and extra meter are “should” something happen.
The worst part about the above article is not the horrible way these people have been treated, but the fact a Type 1 Diabetic herself admits she would discriminate against other diabetics if she owned her own business.
Even an outspoken advocate for diabetics like Fran Carpentier, a Type 1 diabetic and a senior editor at Parade magazine [and dLife contributor], understands the implications for business. â€œKnowing what itâ€™s like to live with the disease hour by hour, day by day, I wonder if I owned my own company if I would hire someone with diabetes,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m being bluntly honest. And it kills me to say this.â€
More and more people in this country, and around the world, are being diagnosed with this disease. Adjustment in workplace safety and disabilty rules must be addressed. Each case must be looked at for its weaknesses and strengths. I work at a desk. The dangers for me if my sugar drop are moreso when I drive than when I’m at work. Yet, battles have been fought, and won, against discrimination. We must keep fighting for the rights of functioning diabetics to continue to sustain themselves and their families by working.
States have restrictions on drivers’ licenses for those of us with diabetes. Find out what your state says about driving with diabetes and keeping or obtaining a license here.
The biggest fight we diabetics have is educating those around use and dispelling their fears. Knowledge is power.Diabetes | Tags :