About Diabetes at Work
The Americans with Disabilities Act and Amendments Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was signed into law on September 25, 2008, and became effective Jan 1, 2009 with significant changes that broadened the definition of "disability" and made it easier for an individual seeking protection under The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to establish that he or she has a disability.
Title I of the ADA covers employment by private employers with 15 or more employees as well as state and local government employers. The Rehabilitation Act provides similar protections related to federal employment. In addition, most states have their own laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of disability. Some of these state laws may apply to smaller employers and provide protections in addition to those available under the ADA.
When is diabetes a disability under the ADA?
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. Under the amendments act, major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. Major life activities also include major bodily functions which include, but are not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions. (2)
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.
1 - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Notice Concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Amendments Act of 2008. http://www.eeoc.gov/ada/amendments_notice.html (Accessed 03/13).
2 - United States Department of Labor. The ADA Amendments Act of 2008: Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.dol.gov/esa/ofccp/regs/compliance/faqs/ADAfaqs.htm (Accessed 03/13).
3 - U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. EEOC Fact Sheet: The Americans with Disabilities Act and Diabetes. http://www.eeoc.gov/diabetes.html (Accessed 03/13).
Reviewed by Janis Roszler, MSFT, RD, CDE, LD/N 3/13
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I had a bad one last night. A scary low bloodsugar that reminded me just how tenuous diabetes makes my existence. I hate those. I hate the feeling that I'm anything less than a strong, capable woman. Diabetes, like a sledge hammer to the knees, has a way of hobbling the confidence I have in my health, strength and well-being. It is both frustrating and disheartening. It's 2:00 am and a good friend called from their third shift job because they needed someone. Just...