Need Some Advice

Not sure how to direct this inquiry, so please feel welcome to advise me about how and where to reach out on this subject.

My employer has (on occasion) asked me to forego taking a meal break during my shift and I am concerned about the effect this may have on my blood sugar and my ability to perform on the job (the work is janitorial, which means there's a fair amount of physical exertion involved.)

I need the job and am reluctant to be seen as any sort of troublemaker, but I am worried about potential long and short term effects. I also worry about how my employer may view my concerns as this is a union-free environment and there is typically a lot of turnover and - not to be too plainly spoken about it - I need the job.

I am open to suggestions, just as long as they do not include quitting. I have lots of other applications going out there, but for now, this is what I've been able to round up.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions my fellow community members may offer.

Do they know you are diabetic?

Are they asking you to skip the meal or to delay it? Why?

Do you take insulin? If not, does skipping or delaying a meal usually cause your BG to go low?

If you do not go low or need to eat on a regular schedule to avoid lows, what are your fears for delaying the meal?

Can't help without knowing these things.

If you're on insulin and meds and you will go low, can you just eat a granola bar or something like that to keep you going? I'm assuming they don't know you have D and you don't want to tell them?

If you're in the US, you can put them on notice about the American's with disabilities act and assert your right to reasonable accomodation. If it's something like "no breaks so you can get done faster so we don't have to pay you as much" they are probably not in compliance with the law. One of my buddies used to do that sort of law and said that "I have great cases and win but they aren't worth a lot..." which may be the downside to making a claim of that nature and may make it more reasonable to try to work something out.

I have an office job, which is different and got a new boss a year or so ago who was sort of horrified that I don't take breaks and go to lunch but the restaurants near my office are, for the most part, horrible crap which I have no interest in eating and I'm busy enough that it's easier to just hang out at my desk and chow down and keep at it. If you can do that, that's reasonable. In an extreme case a granola bar is a decent option. This one guy I ran with was part of a group doing a Ragnar race and just fueled himself with peanut butter sandwiches in the pockets of his running shorts. I switched from deli meat to peanut butter a few years ago and it made me feel healthier w/o the whatevertheyputinlunchmeat and I could get them in my pockets if I needed to.

Option 1: Tell the boss that you're happy to work through meal breaks on occasion but you need a few minutes during your shift to take care of some personal medical business. If you feel comfortable sharing with this boss that you're diabetic and need to check your glucose level and perhaps eat some quick acting food then that would be best.

Option 2: Don't share anything with your boss, comply with his request to miss meals, and pick your spots to check your glucose and snack when needed. At worst, you can always use a bathroom stall to give you some privacy for testing. I hate the thought of that but you have to do what you have to do. Always keep some fast acting glucose in your pocket and use if you feel low, even if you can't check. Better safe than sorry.

I believe that every worker, for his and others' safety, has the right to meet certain fundamental human needs. Checking your glucose, taking medication on time, and eating when needed are just as necessary for you as using the restroom is for every worker. This is a tough position for you to be in, but I understand the economic necessity. I also understand that the world is not always fair; and you need this job. Good luck and don't give up looking for other work!

Depending on what state you live in, meal breaks, under state law are covered under FLSA, if you work a certain number of hours per day you're entitled to both meal breaks and 15 minute breaks, depending on how many hours you work per day. I'm not sure if you're a FTE employee. Also, are you taking insulin?

Sarah is correct in a lot and I bet most states your employer is required to give you a meal break during an 8 hour shift. This is true for all not just diabetics. There may be exceptions in the law so I suggest you contact your states department of labor and inquire what your rights are in your situation.


Thanks so much for your response.

They know I'm diabetic; they do not ASK to skip or delay the meal, they simply DO NOT allow time for a meal or snack break. I must take the initiative to ask. Skipping DOES NOT usually cause my BG to go low, but I DON'T like taking the gamble.

I would prefer to have the reassurance that I am managing my diabetes properly.

Hope this answers your several questions and - again - thanks VERY much for your time and response.

Please enjoy your week!



Have already adopted this strategy; have been reluctant to share this need of mine lest I be pigeon-holed as demanding special consideration, which would be a completely false characterization. The employer in question is not exactly what you could described as "enlightened" and as these are mostly entry level gigs with high rates of turnover, employees such as myself are generally viewed as expendable commodities.

Am very grateful to you for your input.

All best wishes,



Am not sure our circumstances are exactly comparable, but am grateful to you for your input.

Am not sure there would be any financial incentive to pursue legal remedy in civil court and the general attitude in this state is "pro-business" and anti-union.

I don't want to get wealthy, I just want to be healthy. I don't want to live lazy; am willing to work, I just want to be healthy and well while I'm doing it.

Thanks again for your thoughts!



Thanks for your considered options.

Am already pursuing Option 1 and not Option 2: the trouble is the supervisor declines to take the initiative or manage the shift in such a way as to make allowances unless I step up and ask and then he allows a brief break only with an ill grace (that is, grudgingly...)

Have recently taken to testing blood sugar immediately prior to request and walking up to him "armed" with test results already displayed on the meter in case he feels like challenging the request.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!



Thanks for weighing in.

Am in Tennessee. If shift lasts more than 5-1/2 hours, my employer automatically assumes a 30-minute unpaid meal break has been taken and half an hour's wages are automatically subtracted from the shift record of hours worked.

Yeah, I know: unethical; but nobody said life was fair in the current economy.

Am unsure of meaning of the abbreviation FTE ("Full Time Employee"?...) Have been working 40+ hours/weekly for about the past month...

Do not take Insulin, just metformin 2x daily, ideally, with meals.

Thanks for your thoughts.


Well, there are a few things here.

First, it sounds like you are working at least 30 minutes for free when you work over 5 1/2 hours.

Second, your employer is abusing their position and not managing personnel as the law requires.

Third, well the employer is plain stupid ... but, since you need the job, here are a few suggestions (some more serious than others).

1 - Sit down with your employer and ask if you are doing a good job, ask for suggestions for improvement, point out that you like the job and want to continue as a valued employee, etc, etc. You might also ask if it takes extra effort to train new hires on exactly how to do the job. Then you can also point out that having the chance to take a break makes you a better employee and one who can get through the day without having to call 911. Offer to take some responsibility like setting the break schedule each day, so your boss can concentrate on other tasks.

2 - Alternatively, you could just take the bull by the horns and start each shift by saying, "I would like to take a break in either 4 or 4 1/2 hours. What's better for you today?"

3 - Another alternative (and one I have had pulled on me a LONG time ago) - leave 30 minutes early. Preface it with, "Hey boss, since we didn't take lunch today, I will be clocking out 30 minutes early and you will pay me for the whole day, okay?"

4 - Regardless, you should be documenting every time you are asked to give up your break and are not being paid. This is against the law, period. Are there others in the same boat?

Best of luck to you!