Have You Ever Been Discriminated Against Because of Diabetes?

Many diabetics have no doubt suffered covert discrimination in seeking employment or in interpersonal relationships, but I wonder if anyone has been openly discriminated against on the basis of their health status?

When I sought immigration from home country, the United States, to Canada after marrying my wife, who is Canadian, I was declared inadmissible because, according to Immigration and Naturalization Canada, I would put too much of a strain on the public healthcare system because of my diabetes. I found this odd, since Canada is quite proud of its Charter, which explicitly declares discrimination against people because of health status is impermissible. But Canada is not really sincere about its rights, since the courts allow the government almost always to slip out of strict rights observance through the rights limitation clause of the Charter.

I had to spend 22 years living officially apart from my wife, who did not want to leave her job, friends, and relatively, though we visited often. Finally one Canadian government noticed how inhumane the policy of excluding immediate family members from joining their relatives on health grounds, so they decided to allow them into the country. More distant relatives and all ordinary immigrants, however, continue to be excluded.

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I have been discriminated against at a job, years ago. It was the job I had when I was first diagnosed. The owner didn’t want me to return after I got out of the hospital because he didn’t want to have any “problems”. I was viewed as a liability. This was a law firm, by-the-way. You’d think lawyers would know better. I came back to work anyway, but I ended up leaving on my own few weeks later. Lucky me, I ended up getting a better job.

I have also had the usual insurance discrimination. I had to agree to leave a life insurance policy so that my coworkers could continue to be covered. Otherwise, they were going to drop the whole group. I did as I was asked and didn’t make waves.

Early on I learned to not reveal too much of my personal health information because people DO discriminate. Either that or they act like know-it-alls and proceed to tell you everything you need to know about diabetes even though 99 percent of what they are telling you is wrong.

I believe I did not get a job once because of diabetes. It was the best thing that ever happened. Thank God, I did not get that job.

Oh and I can not go to Canada anymore, they have my picture on wanted posters so I am thinking Holland maybe?


I have never been discriminated against to my knowledge, but:

  • That could just mean I didn’t know when it was happening

  • I am only a single data point and . . . “the plural of anecdote is not evidence”

Interesting. You have managed to lower my opinion of Canada a couple of notches.

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I have not been discriminated against because of diabetes. I have been discriminated against numerous times because of being legally blind.

As a Canadian, I agree with you completely that our immigration policies around disabilities and health conditions is discriminatory. I fervently hope it gets changed soon. This is the first I’ve heard of people with diabetes being turned away, but I’ve heard of it happening to people with disabilities or people who have family members with disabilities many times. It makes me ashamed of my country.

Maybe it is just me, but I have never brought it up in a job interview.

"So, what can you tell us about yourself that would make you a good fit for this position?"

What would I say? “I am a diabetic!”

Not sure how it would come up in seeking employment.

In a lot of jurisdictions it is legal to ask applicants for jobs for health information. In other situations, the employer sets health criteria for employment which are sometimes hardly relevant to the actual job requirements. Sometimes the required company insurance policy exam finds out about medical conditions which employees can use to refuse to make the final hiring decision.

I once applied for a Humboldt Fellowship, administered in the United States but sponsored by Germany. I was recommended by my university for it, but the fellowship required a health exam. Since in those days (the 1970s), the A1c test was not much used, my physician decided to base his entire recommendation on a single blood glucose test in his office. Since it was after lunch and was high, he refused to recommend me for the fellowship so I didn’t get it. I explained to him that my blood sugar levels jumped around a lot, but since he didn’t feel it was a good use of his time to bother testing again.

Since this was in the era before home glucometers, the blood sugar level of diabetics was generally very high, and yet we were all perfectly able not to waste a fellowship, so what was the point of the test? I already had a scholarship to attend my university, so how was this fellowship any different?

Passed by Congress [United States of America] in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the nation’s first comprehensive civil rights law addressing the needs of people with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications.


Pre-Employment Inquiries and Medical Questions & Examinations

The ADA places restrictions on employers when it comes to asking job applicants to answer medical questions, take a medical exam, or identify a disability.

An employer may not ask a job applicant, for example, if he or she has a disability (or about the nature of an obvious disability). An employer also may not ask a job applicant to answer medical questions or take a medical exam before making a job offer.

An employer may ask a job applicant whether they can perform the job and how they would perform the job. The law allows an employer to condition a job offer on the applicant answering certain medical questions or successfully passing a medical exam, but only if all new employees in the same job have to answer the questions or take the exam.

Once a person is hired and has started work, an employer generally can only ask medical questions or require a medical exam if the employer needs medical documentation to support an employee’s request for an accommodation or if the employer has reason to believe an employee would not be able to perform a job successfully or safely because of a medical condition.

The law also requires that the employers keep all medical records and information confidential and in separate medical files.



A lot has changed since the 70’s. It is illegal to not hire someone because of a disease.


When I was still an undergraduate, discrimination was common against diabetics and openly done. I remember wondering what I would have to face when I tried to get a job.

Things gradually got better. The problem is, however, that this is not so in every country, and in some places diabetes still counts as a legitimate reason not to grant people opportunities. Of course careers like the military, the CIA, piloting, membership in some religious orders with dietary rules, and other areas are closed, occasionally for legitimate reasons, and it can often be difficult to get a driver’s license or maintain one, especially if you are known by your doctor to have serious hypoglycemic spells. In Canada, doctors proactively go after their diabetic patients, and the first time they hear ‘severe hypoglycemia’ they assume that this is a good reason to tell the registrar of motor vehicles your license should be suspended. Also, every medical school in Eastern Europe, from Vienna eastwards, has a health test as a prerequisite to admission, and some exclude those with ‘severe diabetes.’

Diabetes is not a blanket and automatic exclusion to serve in the US Military.

Following is a YouTube link of a very inspirational and personal story of Sergeant First Class Mark Thompson, US Army.

SFC Mark Thompson - Military w/ Diabetes - YouTube

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ok, have to admit did use it once for an interview with a company that does our meters…really really did…


“In a lot of jurisdictions it is legal to ask applicants for jobs for health information. In other situations, the employer sets health criteria for employment which are sometimes hardly relevant to the actual job requirements. Sometimes the required company insurance policy exam finds out about medical conditions which employees can use to refuse to make the final hiring decision.”

diabetes is not considered a disability, and even so, I would be astonished if any reputable US company was able to get away with the above. do you have current examples?

Absolutely. Let me count the ways…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIniljT5lJI

In defence of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it does not actually forbid discrimination on the grounds of health status; rather, it extends “equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination […] based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” In Canada, diabetes is not automatically considered a physical disability.

Further, rights and freedoms are granted to “any person in Canada, whether a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident or a newcomer.” As a citizen and resident of the United States applying for citizenship, you were none of those three.

Which is not to excuse the inconsistent consideration of health issues for those applying for citizenship or refugee status.

But to answer your question, no, in 45-odd years of having diabetes, I have never, to my knowledge, been discriminated against.

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That’s neat. You interviewed for a meter company? That’s a good qualification for rather than against. Did you get the job?

Sadly not but then it was a long shot …

The thing about discrimination, in employment at least, is that no one is likely to tell you that they aren’t going to hire you or aren’t going to promote you, or are even firing you, because of whatever it is they are discriminating you over. They will usually come up with some other reason so that it doesn’t look like discrimination.

I personally HAVE been discriminated against at my job, which is a very well known company one would imagine would be the last place people would be discriminated at. I for years have been denied requests for lead roles, which also happen to be about the only way to get high performance ratings, which is the only way to get a raise or get promoted. I was told not only by management, but also by HR, in the most carefully worded way possible, that basically “We have to choose the best people for lead roles; people who we know are going to be able to be here and get the work done.” Mind you there is absolutely no legitimate reason to refuse to let me have any lead roles, as I am as qualified as everyone else on the team, and I don’t miss any more time than anyone else, in fact probably less than most people.

The Charter actually applies to governments, and does not distinguish among the people it protects. Section 31 (1) of the Charter states that "This Charter applies (a) to the Parliament and government of Canada in respect of all matters within the authority of Parliament … (b) to the legislatures and governments of each province in respect of all matters within the authority of the legislature of each province. Since the Immigration Act is federal, falling under the BNA Act powers assigned to that level of government, immigration matters are all under federal authority, and the Charter “applies to the Parliament and government of Canada.”

Diabetes also counts as a disability. The issue actually has been addressed by some lower courts, as has the admission of a woman applying for immigration who had had breast cancer and was excluded on the basis that the cancer would likely recur, and this would put too much of a strain on the public healthcare service. In the diabetes case, the court argued that the law was consistent with the Charter since it was not discriminating on the ground of a physical disability, but was discriminating on the basis of the excess costs that the disability of diabetes would produce. But of course, this argument was ridiculous, since the discrimination on costs could not be avoided with a diabetic applicant, so it was in effect a discrimination against diabetics.

In its reasoning, the court made the same mistake as had been made under the 1960 Bill of Rights in the case of Bliss v. Canada (A. G.) (1979), where the court had held that an unemployment benefits statute that did not apply to women when they were pregnant did not discriminate against women, which could have violated the equality right, but only against pregnancy, and so it was acceptable. The Charter’s equality provision, s. 15 (1), was designed to avoid this problem, but we find it still being misread by lower courts to replicate the problem.