Social Aspects of Diabetes

Job discrimination is against the law, but it happens. Employers who have had bad experiences with employees who had diabetes may be reluctant to hire you. Title V of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 defines diabetes as a "handicap" if it is used to "exclude qualified workers from jobs, promotions, or other employment activities." This law may protect you against unfair employment practices if you work for:

• An agency of the executive branch of the federal government or the US Postal Service

• A business with contracts valued over $2,500 annually with the federal government

• Any program that receives federal financial assistance

All states have anti-discrimination statutes. To find out about the relevant laws in your state, contact the state commission on human or civil rights, the office of fair employment, or the department of labor.

People with diabetes are banned by law from certain types of employment. Regulations of the US Department of Transportation bar people with Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes from driving trucks on interstate routes (these regulations are being changed to allow people with diabetes who follow strict guidelines to drive trucks on interstate highways). People with diabetes cannot serve in the armed forces or hold commercial pilot's licenses. In some states, they cannot join police forces. Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines limit the types of machinery that can be operated by people with diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) advocates for case-by-case determination of employment eligibility. The ADA's position is that "Any person, whether insulin dependent or non-insulin dependent, should be able to accept any employment for which he or she is individually qualified." Your local ADA

affiliate can provide information about the ADA's Attorney's Network, a group of lawyers experienced in helping people with diabetes. You can also contact the local bar association for referrals to lawyers with experience in employment discrimination cases.

Help yourself. Don't accept a job that will conflict with your diabetes care plan. Seek employment where you will be allowed time for your regular checkups, and where a good health plan is offered. Your state vocational rehabilitation office can assist with vocational counseling, job placement, and retraining.

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