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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Diabetes in the Workplace

Fascinating article about diabetes in the workplace.

Evil HR Lady's advice for companies trying to set policy--run it by the New York Times test--you know, would you want what you did to be on the front page of the New York Times? I bet UPS would have preferred that this didn't end up there.

I don't know how I feel about the accommodations for diabetics. No one I am close to suffers from the disease, so I am very unaware. I do think, however, eating at your desk should be a no-brainer type accommodation.


First Year said...

Jeez. I am not sure if diabetes is a disablity, but things like eating at your desk, seems like a reasonable accomadation to make for someone so they can be productive.

It really amuses me because I eat at my desk all the time while during work, and I work from home where I (gasp) eat whenever I want while working.

FHL said...

Since I experience a bit of a health difficulty myself, I should side with the employees on this one, but I can see where the employer is coming from.

Sometimes, there are valid reasons for discrimination. Do you want someone with poor reflexes piloting your airplane? If their condition really does have a negative impact on their ability to do their job, doesn't that constitute reason? (not that it matters for me, in an employment "at will" state.) I'm all for making accomondations, but it sounds like UPS has a legitimate point. Could this guy have a blackout due to his condition? Is it worth the liability? A better solution might be to find him another position...

(I do find the diabetic employee who worked in a candy store to be situationally amusing.)

A more interesting proposition would be discriminating against smokers. After all, they may have to take more frequent breaks, there are health issues as well as emotional state - I had a manager that would get really grumpy without his smoke break; and then there's the smell that comes back with them. It's almost a hygiene issue. The EOE act doesn't distinguish smoking preference as an illegal discrimination, does it?

Thought-provoking blog entry...

Mrs.Bart said...

Hi HR Lady,

This is so timely for me. DH just got diagnosed with epilepsy at age 36. (That never happens. And no, he didn't have a drug addiction.) I've been freaking out about the change in our lives. He's now got a dreaded pre-existing condition! He works in marketing, which is not the most stable field. What's going to happen if he loses his job? Will he be eligible for insurance?

I'm a manager in IT. I've hired all sorts of people. One of my employees was diabetic. When he got the flu, it generally took him a day or two longer to bounce back than non-diabetic employees. He needed to get his sugars re-balanced. Definitely not a big deal in the IT world.

Thanks for the awesome entry!

Teri said...

I realize this post is several months old, but I just have to comment. To me, the crux of the matter in the linked article is this: "Establishing discrimination has become harder since 1999, when the Supreme Court held that if a disability can be corrected with medicine or things like prostheses, it is not necessarily protected."

The problem seems to be that the things that the disability can be corrected with are things that sometimes are not allowed in the workplace, like eating at a work station or the licensing requirements for the UPS mechanic.

It produces a Catch-22: It's not a protected disability because it can be corrected, but we're not going to allow you to correct it and we don't have to, because it's not protected.

What if an employer had a rule that employees could not wear prostheses on the job? How long would that last?