Discussing Diabetes with Potential Employers

Just curious how others have dealt with this topic when they go for interviews.

I feel like, in most cases, it would be a non issue; not something you really need to mention.

But if I'm applying for a job that could potentially have me doing something for hours at a time with no breaks.. I feel like I need to tell them, and I'm not sure how to address it.

In my case, it's that one of the clinics I've applied to does a lot of orthopedic surgeries.. if they expect me to assist with those, it could mean being scrubbed in to surgery for as many as 8, 9 hours...

They responded that they are interested in meeting me, so I am going to try to go down this weekend. Trying to think of everything I need to cover, and this is one of the topics that might have to come up :(

I am a real stickler for rights. As far as I am concerned (under ADA), the only reason you have to reveal your diabetes is if it would interfere in the performance of your job. Your employer "must" provide reasonable accomodations. Lots of jobs require you to do things for extended periods of time, but it is a reasonable accomodation to enable you to take breaks to deal with diabetes.

If you are applying as a commercial airline pilot, diabetes can affect your performance. But taking a break during an 8 or 9 hour surgery to check your blood sugar, correct and then scrub back in is a "reasonable" accomodation. Personally, I would not tell them. Once I'm hired, tough noogies. I would tell HR I have diabetes and I would personally tell everyone around me. And I would not expect to be treated any differently than any other employ except I might need some minimal accomodations which I "will" get.

With respect, I disagree. Part of the analysis one should undertake in deciding about disclosing diabetes to a potential employer are not just my rights, but the rights of others. Would my need to attend to my diabetes potentially cause harm to the employer, fellow employees or, in this case, patients being treated in an OR? Frankly I'd rather be totally honest up front instead of having something bad happen along with the "you should have told us about this" conversation.

At issue here is "reasonable accommodation." What is reasonable for one job is not necessarily reasonable for another. When considering your rights also consider the rights of the employer, co-workers and those you serve.

Thanks for the replies.

It is a small business, a veterinary clinic, with 4 doctors and 15 support staff. They see all species, and I've already been told they do a lot of small animal orthopedic surgeries. I have to be honest that I really have zero interest in being involved in orthopedics at all for small animals. I know they are hiring at least two associates, and she has seen my resume (it's almost exclusively horse-related though I don't mind doing companion animals and small ruminants).. I feel like every other aspect of the job would be completely manageable even though I have diabetes.

I just hesitate to avoid telling them, as it seems (at least in my mind) rude to apply for a job that will require accommodations in at least one aspect, and not tell them until after they've hired me.

I will be calling her later this evening; I think I will just ask what they are looking for in a new hire, and see what she says. I'm trying not to close any doors; veterinary jobs are just as hard to come by as any job in this economy. And I would be able to at least do some equine work if I go after this job, which would make me happy.

I gave this a lot of thought when I was diagnosed, especially in my line of work. Being that I deal with people in emergent situations, I need to always be my best. I could potentially go all day without a break for food etc. Taking all that into account, I looked at it this way, How many times do you realisitically think the surgery is gonna be 8-9 hours or more? AND THEN, How many people in that OR are gonna step out at one time or another to pee? How long does it take you to check your sugar, bolus, eat a small snack, whatever it might be that you need to do? About that long... I realize not everyone leaves to pee, but I guarantee you people leave from time to time. I am officially a speed eater. I can eat graham cracker (which are provided to EMS workers by the local hospital in between calls) in like 20 seconds... If you want the job, you can make it work, you just have to work around the diabetes. Instead of trying to figure out how to tell people, whether to tell people, I try and think how can I make this work so I can do what I want? Then, if I HAVE to tell, I share when and if the time is right.

An asthmatic doesn't apply for a job and say they are asthmatic in the interview. If they were in the OR and had an asthma attack they'd step out handle it and come back in, no big deal. Same with someone who had a heart condition, or epilepsy. You don't have to tell and they by law can not ask.

I agree with juliannagrl. There's a reason they cannot ask. If you tell them and they have a choice between two equal in every other way candidates - you and a person who they think needs no accomodations - who do you think they will choose to hire?

I've never disclosed my diabetes in an interview and I've always found a way to fulfill my job responsibilities by finding ways to make it work, as juliannagrl said. That means I probably work a little harder than the average bear, get to work earlier, maybe stay a little later, so that my work ethic is recognized. But I take the few minutes I need to take care of myself and nobody has a problem with it. I make sure my employer is not getting short changed because of my needs.

I pretty much agree as well. There really is no reason during an interview to disclose your diabetes. MOST jobs you will be able to work around. I worked 12 hour shifts in the hospital and managed. Of course lol for years I never enjoyed a meal cause I inhaled my food. BUT if its what you want to do, you find a way to make it work. Short of being a commercial pilot, going into space, maybe some types of law enforcement, or military their really isnt any job that is off limits.

Thanks for all of the replies. I've had some people telling me that I should tell them up front, and did not feel comfortable even considering telling a potential employer.

I know that it's illegal to discriminate; but I also know that discrimination happens all the time.. it's just hard to prove.

I'd rather get hired and tell them later; but at the same time, they could later be like, "Why didn't you tell us?" All I can think is to just not make a big deal out of it once they do find out.

Exactly, and if they do say “why didn’t you tell us?”. I always come back with, well I didn’t feel it was an issue, it’s just part of who I am never even thought you’d want to know, or something like that. If you make a big deal about it then they will too, but if you don’t, they won’t.

If you get hired, then casually tell everyone. But diabetes isn't a factor in whether you should be hired or not. You may think that telling them is a courtesy, but it isn't. Being objective when hiring is hard. Finding out an applicant has diabetes or otherwise disabled means that you have to actively ignore and reject that piece of information. If you come to interview with me, please don't tell me you have diabetes, I just would rather not know.

Hey, thanks, those are great ideas for how to deal with it when it eventually comes out. I'm not really good at coming up with things like that on the fly.

That makes me feel a lot better about what I was initially planning to do- not tell them!

Turn those lemons into lemonade.

Tell them that because you occasionally need to check blood, have a snack, etc. you are serving as a role model for good health practices in their workplace.

Tell them you keep a mental clock in your head and that when you spend a minute to take care of D they get 3 extra minutes of work from you out of gratitude.

Mention you are less likely to take a sick day on the first perfect day of spring because you know you might really need it for real.

Remind them that D forces you to take great care of yourself ALL the time, unlike other "seemingly" healthy co-workers.

I tell everyone straight away. I tell the boss I tell my co workers first day. If they dont want me, I dont want them, better they knwo fit going in then get surprised. I am an upfront out of the box sort of guy.

Yes but; As per other comments, I would want to get as far down the interview process providing the best possible image and perception before springing that fact too soon.

that way the positives may easily outway that piece of data near end of Interview and they want you and will accomodate.

Too soon, an interviewer may decide too much trouble before getting a full positive picture, and shut you out and you are behind the eight ball.

Well I have always had good fortune getting jobs when I need them. Now i have alwas worked in professional offices not manual labor which might be different.

Yes, yet facts remain that the employment interview process is like a funnel.

The front end of the funnel is wide with usually many candidates that needs winnowing out as much as possible and then one gets to small end of funnel with few candidates, minor issues get less time or negative responses at small end of funnel as we are now focused on getting employable candidates.

The key is still to get to the thin end of the funnel first.

The front end of the wide opening is focused on filetring out as much as possible. The thin end is about keepers and offers.

Professional opportunities versus manual labour interviews are separated by some key issues. The professional offices/job offers/interviewers have all sorts of sophistry to dump apllicants. Yes, they cannot discriminate, but minor negative issues may easily lead interviewers to focus on minor job shortcomings that in view of no diabetes may get completely overlooked.

We didn't discriminate - hades no, he didn't have the qualifications! Uh huh.

Yes right!

A few thoughts ...

I deal with a sort of interesting situation, because I have a visible disability as well as an invisible health condition. I mention the former up front. I don't mention the latter.

I mention the former because I know if I don't, the person interviewing me will either ask anyway, or will be sitting there for the entire interview preoccupied about how I will possibly do the job, they won't really be paying attention to ME, they will be paying attention to the white cane or the fact I can't make eye contact or wondering if my mother dropped me off at the interview ...

So, that I bring up fairly quickly. I give the person interviewing me the chance to ask any questions they have (in fact, I invite them to ask). Occasionally, this backfires and the entire interview is focused on my disability rather than the job. I realize some people totally disagree with this. I know people with disabilities who will refuse to answer any questions related to it. But my philosophy is that I would rather dispel misconceptions than act like I find it offensive I've been asked a (usually perfectly reasonable) question.

As for the diabetes, I have never brought that up in an interview. It's invisible, I've made sure my pump is hidden and all alarms are on vibrate (I don't want them thinking my cell phone is so important I need to keep it on my pocket at all times), and I make sure my blood sugar is high enough that I'm not going to have a low in the interview. Since they don't know about it, they are not sitting there wondering how I'm going to do things in spite of my diabetes. If I bring it up, it's just going to complicate things.

Once I am hired, I tell people I have diabetes right away. However, I have never actually had to ask for accommodations for diabetes. I have taught in classrooms where I can't easily step out, but I've found ways of working around it. I agree with what others have said, that the first step is to think of how you yourself can overcome the problem, before going to the employer to ask for accommodations. (Again, I know some would disagree.) Everyone with a disability or health condition has to work harder sometimes to do the same things other people do easily ... but no one ever said life was fair. I leave accommodation requests for things I really have tried to overcome and cannot do on my own, or if an employer ever gave me problems with things like taking a short break to test and treat my blood sugar (which has never happened).

Hope these thoughts help, and good luck with the interview!

Just some thoughts...

ADA is crystal clear on what is required of the employer regarding your rights as a person with Diabetes. You do not have to disclose your condition and an employer cannot ask about it.

What ADA is not clear on is your responsibilities to your employer and what is considered "reasonable" accommodation, and that is a good thing. It seems like you have some specific concerns regarding this job, namely, the ability to stand through a 8-9 hour orthopedic surgery. Really, only you as the PWD can answer that question based on what you know about your own condition. The question is, what happens if the answer is no?

You can't be fired for having diabetes. You can't be fired for not disclosing you have diabetes. You can, however, be fired for not being able to fulfill your responsibilities as an employee. At some point, if you're going to be assigned an 8-9 hour surgery and there is some concern on your part that you cannot get through the whole thing, ADA does not say that you can unilaterally decide to step out and test your BG and correct if necessary.

Ultimately, your employer does get to decide what is "reasonable" but they do not get to do that unilaterally either. Before you worry about that, though, I would guess that, if you did need to step out to care for your condition, there are guidelines in place. If you know what those are in advance, you could probably work out what it is that you need to do without ever having to disclose your particular reason for utilizing them.

Again though, at some point, if disclosing your condition helps the employer and yourself develop guidelines for "reasonable" accommodation where no suhc guidelines exist then the ADA certainly protects you.

Yeah, as a teacher, I am prohibited by law from leaving my students unattended for any reason. I imagine it's the same for you. It would, therefore, not be reasonable for me to ask to be able to step out of my class at a moments notice to treat my diabetes.

All of my co-workers know I have diabetes and that there is a tiny chance that they'll get a text during their conference period to cover my class for a minute while I treat. That's out of courtesy and respect for the job they do that I would not interrupt their conference unless it's an absolute necessity.

We also have regulations against having food and drink in the class. I have told my employer that I have T1 diabetes because it is much more expedient to have my necessary supplies close at hand rather than way over in the nurses office. It's kind of hard to explain why I need a bag of Smarties, insulin, Omnipods, and alchol pads in my class without mentioning the word diabetes. In the end, my employer and I agree that these are "reasonable" accomodations that do not interfere with my ability to perform my responsibilities and do not break the law.