The woman, who worked in a local manufacturing plant (her name and factory name not published for protection of workers) happened to be a Type 2 diabetic. To control her glucose properly necessitated trips to the restroom every so often to check her blood–to “stick-and-click”, as she thought of it. Her supervisor, however, was suspicious, and began to follow her on these little trips. The employee was shocked that she was not even allowed privacy for this, not to mention being ordered to stop her routine. Not being unionized–in fact, being a mere lowly temp–she was unable to effectively protest. The temp agency, in fact, took the company’s side in this instance.
The diabetic woman tried to patiently explain to the supervisor the reasons for the occasional disappearing act, and informed her that testing glucose levels are important in diabetes control. (Ironic, considering this company was trying to produce a new diabetes drug at the time.) The boss wouldn’t listen and became accusatory. Since the worker was caught up and had been performing well, she couldn’t see how this was even an issue. In an at-will state, though, like Michigan, there doesn’t even need to be any issue.
The Americans with Disabilities Act does cover states, however–and diabetes is generally considered a condition that falls under the act’s umbrella. Not being on insulin or any other medications, and only controlling the disease by diet, exercise and close monitoring of glucose levels, the prevailing attitude of many workplaces is, in this area, “so you’re not REALLY diabetic”, and/or “You better not have to deal with that here!” OK, bosses–diabetics of any type will just freeze their metabolisms while at work to suit YOUR needs and schedules. Dropping dead will have to be done on breaks.
Employers–especially those who don’t give workers sick leave–need to recognize there are some conditions (of which diabetes is only one) that have to be dealt with when the need arises. Short of refusing to hire anyone in less than a hundred per cent perfect health forever, that’s reality. By allowing those workers with special needs to maintain their health and act preventively, they will improve productivity. Proactive, holistic health care in the workplace means taking measures to keep employees well, avoid disease spread by sick staff, and cut downtime by both avoiding accidents and immediately treating injuries. This type of health management is much easier and less expensive than what is currently being done by many companies.
For more information on the ADA, see: