Diabetes discrimination in the workplace is far too common in New York City. Federal, state, and local laws prohibit New York City employers from making decisions based on your disability and not your qualifications, skills, or job performance.
At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we focus our entire legal practice of fighting for the rights of New York City employees. Our lawyers have extensive experience in employment law. We also have the resources to fight for your rights if you’ve experienced unfair treatment or unlawful discrimination because you have diabetes. We will review your discrimination case and give you information about your legal rights. Our attorneys will advise you as to whether or not you qualify as disabled and whether or not you have a legal claim against your employer.
Federal, State, and New York City Laws Protecting Employees from Diabetes Discrimination
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that protects individuals who are considered disabled. Under the ADA, disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially restricts one or more major life activities.
The ADA applies to employers who have 15 or more employees working for them as well as labor unions, employment agencies, and state and federal employees. To submit a claim under the ADA, you will need to prove that your diabetes limits a major life activity, such as any of the following:
- Engaging in manual tasks
New York State’s Human Rights Law
While federal law does protect employees with diabetes against unlawful discrimination, New York state offer employees with diabetes even greater protection. The New York State Human Rights Law prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because of a disability, including diabetes.
Unlike federal laws, New York state’s law defines disability broadly. New York’s highest court of law ruled that a disability includes any medically diagnosable impairment. If you have received a diagnosis for your diabetes, your condition is considered a disability under New York’s Human Rights Law. Many of our clients seek compensation and restitution under New York state and city laws because they offer greater protection than federal law.
New York City’s Human Rights Law
If your employer has four or more employees, New York City and state laws prohibit your employer from basing employment decisions based on the fact that you have diabetes, as long as you are otherwise qualified for the job.
The New York City Human Rights Law is at least as broad as New York state’s law. This law even requires employers and employees to use an interactive process to determine whether the employer should offer reasonable accommodations. Even if an employee hasn’t worked for an employer for a year, he or she may be entitled to take an extended leave of absence related to diabetes.
How New York Employers Discriminate Against Employees with Diabetes
Under federal, state, and local disability discrimination laws, an employer cannot consider your diabetes diagnosis when taking any of the following actions:
- Hiring decisions
- Termination of employment decisions
- Determining pay
- Assigning work or jobs
- When determining layoffs
- Changing employment benefits
- Changing any other condition of employment
Examples of Diabetes Discrimination in the Workplace
Instead, employers must make decisions based on your qualifications, skills, and job performance. The following are more specific examples of diabetes discrimination in the workplace:
- You are left out of essential meetings when workers without diabetes are invited
- Your supervisor gives the best clients or accounts to employees without diabetes
- Your co-workers talk about diabetes in an insulting way, and your employer does nothing
- Your employer gives non-disabled employees the best clients and projects
- Your employer doesn’t allow you to eat snacks at your desk to regulate blood sugar
- Your employer doesn’t give you time off for treatment or management of diabetes
- Your employer doesn’t allow you to take your insulin at regular intervals
- Your employer does not allow you to modify your schedule to manage diabetes
- Your employer doesn’t provide you a place to rest until your blood sugar levels are normal
The following scenario is a typical example of diabetes discrimination in the workplace. An employee with diabetes tells his supervisor that he has diabetes before a scheduled promotion. His supervisor had previously promised that he would receive the promotion, due to all of his hard work. On the day of the promotion, his supervisor announces that a co-worker who is not disabled received the promotion. This employer might have a legal claim against his employer for diabetes-based discrimination.
Another common example of diabetes discrimination in the workplace happens when employers refuse to install special bathroom facilities or equipment. Or, they might not allow their employees with diabetes to take enough breaks to check their blood sugar with a glucometer.
Reasonable Accommodations that an Employer Should Make for a Diabetic Employee
Employers must make reasonable accommodations for your diabetes unless your employer can prove that the changes would be too expensive or too hard for the business to make. Reasonable accommodations for diabetes can include any of the following:
- A clean area in which you can test your blood sugar levels
- A needle-safe container for disposal of your needs
- Providing special equipment or devices
- Modifying equipment
- Providing exams
- Adjusting training materials
- Adjusting work schedules to allow you to test your blood sugar regularly
- Adjust job assignments
- Change company policies
- Changing your work location to help you better perform your duties
Hostile Work Environments and Diabetes
Sadly, many people make fun of people with diabetes or stigmatize people with diabetes. Living with constant harassment or stigma due to diabetes in the workforce can create a hostile work environment. The ADA prohibits harassment, or offensive conduct, based on a person’s disability. Offensive conduct might include offensive jokes about people with diabetes, as well as all of the following:
- Physical assault
- Insults or put-downs
- Mockery or ridicule
- Interference with work performance
Employers have a legal obligation to make it clear that they will not tolerate workplace harassment based on an employee’s disability, including disability, or on any other basis. When employers know or should know that an employee is being harassed because of his or her diabetes, they could be liable under the ADA as well as local laws for creating a hostile work environment.
Taking Legal Action Over Diabetes Discrimination in the Workplace
If your New York City employer has unlawfully discriminated against you because of diabetes, you might be entitled to a legal remedy. Diabetes-based discrimination is illegal under the federal ADA, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the New York City Human Rights Law. You might have a right to file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights or the New York City Human Rights Law. Or, you might be able to file a discrimination claim with the federal EEOC.
Contact our New York City Diabetes Discrimination Lawyers
If you believe you have suffered employment discrimination due to your diabetes diagnosis, or the perception that you have diabetes, Lipsky Lowe LLP can help. We have the employment law experience to fight for our clients’ rights to financial damages and restitution for diabetes discrimination. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.