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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Diabetes in the Workplace: Discrimination and what to Do   (December 28, 2006)

The New York Times had an excellent story on discrimination against people with diabetes on December 26, 2006 Costs of a Crisis - Diabetics Confront a Tangle of Workplace Laws. It accurately portrays the current sad state of affairs in the United States for people with chronic disease (in this case, diabetes) who are discriminated against because of ignorance.

The article describes in detail the story of a United Parcel Service mechanic who developed diabetes, and due to slightly insane regulations, was put on leave from his mechanic’s job because very rarely, mechanics had to drive, and all UPS drivers need CDLs (commercial driver licenses), and, at the time, Federal officials did not grant interstate licenses to people using insulin.

The author also discusses more briefly others who have fought workplace discrimination, and the role of the EEOC. However, the story did not discuss some key points:

1) The simple fact that your endocrinologist can help. Over the years, I wrote many letters to many employers, and succeeded in quietly getting things done: a police officer on insulin who was given a desk assignment instead of being terminated, school bus drivers who were allowed to drive, and my own insulin-using UPS driver, who became a hostler within UPS’s yards at a time when CDLs did not allow drivers on insulin.

2) The American Diabetes Association’s advocacy program. The ADA has been very active in advocating for people with diabetes, including workplace discrimination: see for example Americans with Disabilities Act Restoration and associated links at the ADA website.

But other than these points, the NY Times story is a balanced piece, and well worth reading. The key to ending discrimination is education, and this story is very helpful.

Oh, and the bottom line, from my viewpoint? If you are discriminated against in the workplace because of your diabetes, you can fight, and you can win. But it may be a long, hard journey.
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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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