I have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and work in a very physically demanding workplace. The heat can be in excess of 120 degrees, the shifts are 12-14 hours and my employer does not allow lunch breaks. I have informed them of my condition and they will not accommodate me with even one 10 minute break to allow myself to eat and balance out my sugar. Is there something I can do to “make” them allow a short break or do they have every right, since the laws in Virginia state that employers are not required to provide lunch breaks for any persons over the age of 16?
Ann Kiernan replies:
If your company has at least 15 employees, it is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and has an obligation to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities. As someone with diabetes, you are protected under the ADA. “Reasonable accommodation” means making changes in work rules or other job conditions, so that the disabled person can perform the essential functions of the job, such as:
- Breaks to check blood glucose levels, eat a snack, take medication, or go to the bathroom
- A place to rest until blood sugar levels become normal
- The ability to keep diabetes supplies and food nearby
- The ability to test blood glucose and inject insulin at work
- Leave for treatment, recuperation, or training on managing diabetes (You may also be entitled to this under the Family and Medical Leave Act, if there are at least 50 employees where you work)
- The opportunity to work a modified work schedule or to work a standard shift as opposed to a swing shift
Your employer’s obligations under the ADA trump local law. The EEOC has extensive materials on diabetes and the ADA, which you may want to consult and share with your employer. But if that does not work, you may want to consult a local employment lawyer or file a complaint with the EEOC. Good luck with your health and your job.
Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.