It’s fairly well established in U.S. and UK law that people with diabetes have some protection against job discrimination. In the case of those already on the job, employers are expected to make reasonable accommodations for issues that arise from a diabetes diagnosis.
Unfortunately, job discrimination is not always a clear-cut issue. Too often, people with diabetes will be fired or forced out for other alleged reasons, including poor job performance. It gets hard to define what is caused by diabetes and what isn’t, especially when an employer wants to believe the latter over the former.
In this edited excerpt from the book Persona Non Grata With Diabetes, Paul Cathcart describes the experience of being nudged out of a job while dealing with a long-term diabetes-related illness:
HR brings me in for the talk – to see how I am doing. “Is there anything we can do to help? Adjust your working hours? Just let us know. We are here to offer you all the help and support we can. The door is always open.”
HR brings me in for the talk – “Will you ever be ill again? If so, do you know when and for exactly how long? It’s affecting the team; they are managing to cover for now, but it’s getting a bit much for them. In the meantime we are extending your three-month probationary period by another three months.”
HR brings me in for the talk – My boss has come along to make this a more formal affair. No one is happy when I request to be paid for the prearranged work from home I did while I was ill. I am informed that “this will no longer be an acceptable procedure.”
HR brings me in for the talk – they send me to see the company doctor to get to the bottom of this. Someone reported back they had seen me drink a full pint of Guinness on Friday after work as I tried to socialise on some level with the team who have been so patient in covering for me.
Fortunately their doctor is supportive, telling me that I have a legally recognized disability and that he can see I am doing everything I can to get better. He shakes my hand as I leave his office on Wimpole St., and I wish he was my doctor.
HR brings me in for the talk – they have read the doctor’s report and he says I’m fine, so they can’t understand why I have been taking time off to see my own doctor again. We debate what the doctor has actually said.
HR sends me an email – they want a second opinion and arrange an appointment with a company nurse for…pretty much now. She happens to be an ex-diabetes specialist nurse who takes one look at me and says, “You need to go home.” I explain that I can’t because I have so much to do, and I’m under so much pressure to do it.
HR brings me in for the talk – requesting that I give their doctor full access to all previous medical health records and to sign the consent waiver form. The form is prepared in front of me with a pen on top; all I need to do is sign. I demur. My doctor informs me this is a common strongarm tactic implemented by HR departments who don’t know their boundaries. He tells me not to sign it, and that I am protected by law.
I have a toothache, and a piece of tooth falls out. I pop over to the emergency dentist. The root of my recent diabetes problems is revealed, so to speak – a hidden gum infection. Tooth extracted and it feels like someone has lifted a blanket from over my head.
I pass on the dentist’s explanation that this is what was causing me to be ill for the past months on end. This is backed up by their private doctor. Every time I was getting better the hidden infection would rear back up and set me back.
In the midst of this, my sister calls to let me know my gran is passing away. During her last days, I get calls from clients of the company that I can’t field adequately. Then all email communication drops, my calls are not returned.
Train back to London and I receive a call from my boss. HR wants to bring me in for a talk. I know from the silence that she is calling me from a meeting room, and I know what this means.
To buy Persona Non Grata with Diabetes, go to www.pngwd.com/store.
Read our five-part series on U.S. law and discrimination against people with diabetes in the workplace here:
1. Barred from Work for Diabetes Ignorance
2. Unsettled Diabetes Discrimination Law
3. Protection from Diabetes Workplace Discrimination
4. Prepping for Job Medical Screenings with Type 1
5. 3 More Diabetes Anti-Discrimination Laws
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