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Diabetes in the workplace.

Updated: September 16, 2013

People with diabetes are not hampered or disabled, per se, by diabetes. A worker with diabetes in good control is as productive as any other worker. There are however some things to consider in this worker. Diabetes may become a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act under certain circumstances.


SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS.
The major source of energy is glucose (sugar). If glucose cannot get into cells, it simply builds up in the blood. Kidneys attempt to eliminate it through urine.

Common results of high blood sugar are:tired


Fatigue.
Frequent trips to the bathroom.
Increased thirst.
Blurred vision.
Weight loss.
Increased appetite.
Agitation.


If a diabetic worker takes a certain class of medication sulfonylureas,  Meglitinides and/or insulin, there is the risk of low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia.


Common results of low blood sugar:


Excessive sweating.crazy
Shaking.
Dizziness.
Hunger.
Fatigue.
Irrational behavior.
Blurred vision.
Headache.
Unconsciousness.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
If your company provides health insurance, insure that all plans cover glucose meters, glucose strips, needles, syringes and medication.


Understand that the diabetic worker may need to have lancets, glucose meters, syringes and needles, insulin and a cool place to store it available on the job. There may be the need to periodically stop and check blood glucose (sugar).


Be considerate, if any of the above symptoms are noted, gently remind the individual to check blood glucose (sugar). Note there is an overlap of symptoms between high and low blood glucose.

Diabetics frequently claim they can tell if sugar is high or low by the way they feel, they are frequently wrong; blood sugar has to be checked. If there is a suspicion that blood glucose is low, it may be necessary to insist that blood glucose is checked or contact medical personnel.

DO NOT ALLOW THE WORKER SUSPECTED OF LOW BLOOD GLUCOSE TO DRIVE!

COMMERCIAL DRIVERS LICENSES.
Current law allows a worker to hold a CDL if taking medication for diabetes other than insulin. Until 2003, there was a blanket ban against workers holding a CDL if taking insulin.  Since then a driver may apply to maintain a CDL through the Federal Diabetes Exemption Program. This link has details: http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/
Current law allows a worker to hold a CDL if taking medication for diabetes other than insulin. Until 2003, there was a blanket ban against workers holding a CDL if taking insulin.  Since then a driver may apply to maintain a CDL through the Federal Diabetes Exemption Program. The application process is somewhat rigorous. Part of the application process is an evaluation by a board-certified or board-eligible Endocrinologist to determine if the individual has any medical problem related to diabetes that might impair safe driving. The applicant’s examination by an Endocrinologist is only valid for 6 months from the date performed. Application forms may be obtained here.
 http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/safetyprograms/Diabetes/diabetes-exemption-package.pdf

 

Family and Medical Leave Act T (FLMA)

If your company has 50 or more employees you may be covered by FLMA. Covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee;
for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care;
to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition. This link has details: http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/

Diabetes as a disability
Circumstances in which diabetes is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“Diabetes is a disability when it substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities. Major life activities are basic activities that an average person can perform with little or no difficulty, such as eating or caring for oneself. Diabetes also is a disability when it causes side effects or complications that substantially limit a major life activity. Even if diabetes is not currently substantially limiting because it is controlled by diet, exercise, oral medication, and/or insulin, and there are no serious side effects, the condition may be a disability because it was substantially limiting in the past (i.e., before it was diagnosed and adequately treated). Finally, diabetes is a disability when it does not significantly affect a person's everyday activities, but the employer treats the individual as if it does. For example, an employer may assume that a person is totally unable to work because he has diabetes. Under the ADA, the determination of whether an individual has a disability is made on a case-by-case basis.” Details are here: http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/diabetes.html

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