Diabetes Forecast

Know Your Rights at School and Work

A legal expert answers questions on diabetes discrimination

Katie Hathaway, the American Diabetes Association's managing director for legal advocacy, chatted on Facebook about diabetes rights and discrimination. Here are excerpts. To inquire about ADA legal advocacy services, call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383).

Q: Can a school refuse a [Section] 504 [written diabetes care] plan for your child?
A: A school subject to 504 must provide the services your child needs. But there is no requirement to develop a written 504 plan. [For more information about school plans, visit diabetes.org/safeatschool.]

Q: Why can't someone with type 1 join the military?
A: The rules for who can join are old and based on old diabetes medicine. We agree people with diabetes should be able to serve in the military. In some cases, you can receive a waiver to stay in the military after diagnosis.

Q: What responsibility do schools have to provide care for a newly diagnosed 6-year-old? More specifically, an elementary school in New Hampshire that doesn't have a school nurse.
A: Every public school must provide the care a child with diabetes needs to benefit from education. If there's no school nurse, the Association believes that other school staff can be trained to provide care. However, in the state of New Hampshire, laws limit care to school nurses, and it is a legal obligation of the school to provide the care no matter what.

Q: Is a person only eligible for one FMLA claim?
A: FMLA allows you to take up to 12 weeks of leave per year that you can use intermittently for things like appointments or in longer stretches for surgery, recovery, etc. It doesn't all have to be for the same reason or disability.

Q: I was working, and my insulin pump stopped. My boss told me I couldn't go home, and I went five or six hours without insulin. Was he allowed to tell me no?
A: We are sorry this happened. It sounds like your boss might benefit from some diabetes education. You might talk to him or her about accommodations that would allow you to take care of your diabetes when you need to.

Q: My boss knew I had diabetes and was OK with me taking off for doctor appointments, etc. Now I have a new supervisor along with a new, unfriendly [human resources] manager. Do I need to apply for [Family and Medical Leave Act] to protect my rights, or do I just tell them [about my diabetes] and hope for the best?
A: Whether you disclose your diabetes is always a personal choice. FMLA can provide protection and allow you to attend these appointments.

Q: Type 1 for 27 years and just found out I am pregnant. My OB/endo hospitalized me for a pump. Now my employer is threatening to fire me if I'm not back by this Friday.
A: You have protections as a pregnant woman and a person with diabetes. You cannot be fired for needing to take care of your diabetes, but you may need to take leave.

Q: I was looking to go back to work. I have called every single child care provider in the area, and not one will take [my 2-year-old daughter with type 1 diabetes]. What can I do?
A: Most child care providers must accept kids with diabetes. But the laws vary by state as to who may administer medication.

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