People With Diabetes Protected From Discrimination

People with diabetes can breath a sigh of relief: New rules now protect them from workplace discrimination. The Obama administration has widened the definition of disability to include cancer, epilepsy, and diabetes, among other conditions.

The government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was told to revamp its rules after Congress voted to broaden federal disability law in 2008. It did so last month.

While you might expect businesses to take issue with such a change, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce welcomed the rules. (The chamber has three million companies across the country as members.)

“These issues can be exceedingly difficult,” said Randel Johnson, a senior vice president at the chamber, in a statement to Bloomberg News Service. “The commission gave substantive consideration to our comments and those of other stakeholders.”

What’s changed? It’s all about what conditions are considered “substantially limiting.”

Before the revision, health issues had to restrict huge chunks of your day-to-day life—sleeping, let’s say, or basic concentration. That led to a pretty restrictive definition of disability. After all, people whose diabetes is controlled are able to sleep through the night and to concentrate. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’re without real and pressing medical needs.

Now, though, “substantially limiting” conditions include not only diabetes and epilepsy, but also obsessive-compulsive disorder, HIV, and post-traumatic stress disorder, the EEOC said. In all of these cases, the diseases pose major challenges—and may require workplace accommodation—but aren’t always obvious to onlookers.

The government defines disabilities so it can require businesses to make “reasonable accommodations” for those with disabilities. Need a break to check your blood sugar? Need some time for an insulin injection? The law now offers you some protection.

Businesses that employ more than 15 people have to follow the rules, which were published last month in the Federal Register.

Do workers need the laws? Apparently so—more than 25,000 people claimed workplace discrimination because of disabilities last year.

Bloomberg News

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