Lows at Work

I got a little low at work on Friday. I wasn’t severely low, but I was lot enough to sort of bob my head, thrust my extremities out when I just wanted to pick something up, and give a goofy grin when someone talked to me.

I got some sugar and was fine a few minutes later. Unfortunately, I have previously had a lot of problems with low episodes. I was suspended from work in February and March while they had a doctor see me, so they could find out if they could fire me without getting in trouble with the ADA (okay, that's my interpretation, and I might be slightly biased); turns out they couldn't, so I stayed on. I have no had any bad lows since then, and I was doing much better until the hiccup on Friday.

I have been suspended from work again until I see a doctor who confirms I can return to work without issue. I have a couple of questions for legally-minded people:

1. There is no point in me seeing a doctor - he'll just tell me not to pass out from lows and to test my blood sugars. This is just some bureaucratic thing someone thought up.
2. My coworkers cannot prove I was low - they didn't test me, and they didn't call in the paramedics.

So my question is: is that legal? To say I can't return to work until I've seen a doctor? Especially when they cannot prove that I was low? (I mean, I was, but I'm not going to admit it.) [I know, I sound like a horrible person here, but my current workplace is really unpleasant, and I'm trying to find something else, but I can't do that with a bad personnel record. I figure other diabetics have to get low, and they can't force them all to go to the doctor, can they?]

Is there anyone out there with any knowledge of the Americans with Disabilities Act?

I don’t know about your legal rights here, but I’d assumed the ADA protects you somehow. If you are concerned, you might want to seek legal council.

I can’t believe they suspended you for a low that only led to goofy grins and some over-gesturing when you had to pick something up! Some employers are crazy! May I ask what line of work you are in (ie, why is it such a huge concern to your employers that you not be low? Are you caring for others, for example?)?

It sounds like your employers need to be made aware of how ignorant they are about hypoglycemia and how NORMAL hypoglycemia is for a diabetic.

No matter what your disability your employer is still entitled to know if you can perform the essential functions of the job. The ADA is not designed make it hard for employers to get rid of who can’t do the job because of a disability (not speaking of you) but to affirm the rights of people who CAN do the job DESPITE the disability - with some reasonable accommodation by the employer.

In short, your employer is entitled to know if you can do the job or not. Since you have a history of on the job lows its not unreasonable for your co-workers to believe your behavior exhibited another low. So, the ADA is not likely to help you with this instance.

HOWEVER, if your employer is going to suspend you or send you home and make you get a doctors note every time someone suspects you are low - that could be harassment. That could be creating a hostile work environment. The ADA requires your employer to make a ‘reasonable accommodation’ and if that means letting you take 15 to 30 minutes to take care of a low that’s what they’ve got to do. As long as you can still get the job done and/or won’t endanger anyone.

So your doctor’s note should mention that you know how to control your blood sugar, that despite your best efforts you may go low on occassion, that you can recognize a low and can recover from it if you get a 15 to 30 minute break. When you bring this back, tell your supervisor that you will be careful about your blood sugar but you want the company to provide a ‘reasonable accommodation’ in the form of allowing a 15 to 30 minute break IF you go low in order to cure it and WITHOUT requiring a doctors note for each occassion. “Reasonable Accommodation” is the buzzword. Use it often. Put it in writing. Ask the doctor to use the term, too. Get something in writing to this effect in your personnel file.

If you have a union, go to them. If your state has a labor relations bureau or fair employment practices department, go to them. If your company has a human resources division, go to them.

As for the ‘bad personnel record’ you ought to take a look at it and see what it says. Most states allow you to add your own documentation to it or respond to unfavorable comments. If they are papering your file, you need to add your own paper.

Better yet - get out of there.

(I’m a lawyer, but I don’t practice. Don’t consider this legal advice, because I’m not licensed in your state.)

What they are doing is NOT legal. The Americans with Disabilities Act covers those of us with chronic conditions. It is illegal for them to hassle you. IF they had fired you, you’d own the place. They cannot harrass you because you have diabetes or any other chronic condition.

Even if you were low, that is not a crime. Are you landing planes or operating heavy equipment? You have a lot of protections. There are attorneys out there who can help. There’s one in LA who specializes in diabetes issues. I’d suggest your HR department look at the ADA and watch their step.

Can’t answer that question… but glad to help keep the topic active until someone can answer it for you.

Can’t conceive how they could do this to you but am not a lawyer either. Hopefully someone will chime in with better experience and credentials…