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Fired Due to Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes are chronic diabetes conditions. These conditions usually stay with a person for life. Diabetes affects how a person’s body uses glucose, which is also known as blood sugar. Glucose is essential to life. Glucose is an important source of energy to muscle and tissue cells, and it is the main source of energy to the brain. If left unregulated, diabetes can lead to excess glucose in the bloodstream. Excess glucose in the bloodstream can lead to grave health problems, including kidney and nerve damage.Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes is a condition whereby a person’s immune system attacks and destroys cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas. Insulin circulates through the bloodstream and enables glucose to enter cells. Insulin also regulates the amount of glucose in the bloodstream so that glucose levels are neither too high nor too low. Type 1 Diabetes results in a person having little or no insulin. As a consequence, glucose, instead of entering cells, concentrates in the bloodstream, which can lead to life-threatening consequences. While genetic susceptibility appears to be a factor in the development of Type 1 Diabetes, the exact cause of Type 1 Diabetes is unknown.Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes is a condition whereby a person’s cells resist the action of insulin. Glucose, instead of entering cells where it is needed, builds up in the bloodstream. While genetic susceptibility and excessive body weight appear to be factors in the development of Type 2 Diabetes, the exact cause of Type 2 Diabetes is unknown. Risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes include:
- Abnormal triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
- High Blood Pressure.
- Family History.
- Lack of Physical Activity.
While Type 2 Diabetes cannot be cured, many individuals can control the condition by diet, weight management, and exercise. For others, medication, taken either orally or by injection, is necessary to control the condition.Gestational Diabetes
During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones that, while sustaining the pregnancy, may also make cells more resistant to insulin. The pancreas will normally then produce enough additional insulin to compensate for the resistance of cells to insulin. However, in some cases the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin make up the difference and too much glucose remains in the bloodstream and not enough makes it into cells, resulting in gestational diabetes. Unlike Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes, gestational diabetes is often a short-lived health impairment.Special Protection for Persons With Diabetes in the Workplace
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (California Government Code section 12900, et seq.) prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on a disability (physical or mental) or a medical condition. A health impairment is a physical disability if it:
- Affects a body system such a neurological, immunological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, including speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin, or endocrine; and
- Limits a major life activity.
A health impairment limits a major life activity if it makes it more difficult to achieve a major life activity.
The term “major life activity” is defined to include physical, mental, and social activities and working. (California Government Code section 12926)
Diabetes Can Qualify as a Physical Disability Under FEHA
Diabetes affects a body system, namely, the endocrine system (and may also affect other body systems), as the pancreas is an integral part of the endocrine system and insulin is among the hormones produced by the pancreas.
Diabetes may also limit a major life activity by making it more difficult to work.Disclosing to Your Employer That You Have Diabetes
Usually, when a person with diabetes is hired, the employer will not know that the person is diabetic. Job applications and job interviewers do not seek such information. A majority of employers do not require medical examinations. FEHA prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants and employees based on disability unless the disability prevents the worker, even with reasonable accommodation, from performing the essential functions of the job without posing a threat to herself or others. Nonetheless, many people believe that disclosing a health problem to a prospective employer will make them less likely to be hired.Accommodating Your Diabetes
FEHA requires employers to provide workers with disabilities reasonable accommodation—a modification or adjustment that bestows the worker with equal employment opportunities unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship for the employer (e.g. great expense or difficulty).Requesting Accommodation for Your Diabetes
Not all workers with diabetes will require reasonable accommodation. Often, however, a worker will at some point tell her employer she is diabetic because she needs an accommodation. A reasonable accommodation can range from a leave of absence or a flexible work schedule, to eliminating certain nonessential job tasks so a worker with diabetes-related neuropathy does not have to walk as much at work.
For example, a person is hired by a company with 15 employees. After a few weeks, the worker tells her employer she has diabetes, and that the employer’s rest break schedule does not give her adequate time to periodically monitor her glucose levels and administer insulin or eat snacks to maintain her glucose levels. She asks for three rest breaks during her eight-hour shift as opposed to the two rest breaks the employer currently provides. Furnishing three rest breaks in an eight-hour shift would appear to be a reasonable accommodation, as it will enable the worker to perform the essential functions of her job with little cost or difficulty for the employer.Fired Due to Diabetes
In the example above, many employers would readily accommodate the worker. It is a good result for all parties involved. The worker continues to be able to earn a living; the employer retains a good worker. Not all employers see it that way. To those employers, a worker with a disability such as diabetes is a liability. Giving the worker an extra rest break may force the employer to shuffle employee schedules and foster resentment among coworkers. The employer may fear this is just the first of many accommodations the worker will require because of her diabetes. What will the worker require next, a leave of absence, a change to her schedule to accommodate doctor’s visits, a private space on the premises to check glucose levels and inject insulin? Instead of accommodating the worker, the employer seeks to get rid of the worker, exaggerating and embellishing any performance or attendance issues, using that as a pretext to fire the worker, when in fact the employer is wrongfully terminating her employment due to diabetes in violation of FEHA and other laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.Contact Us
If your employer has fired you from your job due to Diabetes or another health condition, or if your employer or former employer has otherwise violated your rights under California law, call the experienced employment attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC or Contact Us via our online form.