Desperately Need Advice

Hello All,
I’ve been a type one diabetic since I turned 14 (just turned 22). I am currently training to become an electrician, it is an laborious job but one that I like. I have had several labor intensive jobs before this one and have excelled in all of them.
I have been working in my company’s warehouse for a bit now and have been expecting a transfer to field duty. In fact, when I was hired I was told I would be moved to the field very soon. I talked to my boss today about the transfer and it did not go as expected. I was told that due to me being diabetic they didn’t think I could handle the work. He suggested that I find a different line of work. He also said that they would prefer to let me go and help me find a different job than to move me out of the warehouse.
I understand that I could sue because I am being discriminated but to be honestly I am afraid to. This company basically runs the apprenticeship program that I am enrolled in. I feel like I will be further ostracized if I say anything.
Im not sure what to do. Are there any diabetic electricians out there?

Hello, Matt. I am sorry to hear about the difficulty that you are experiencing. There is no reason why you could not continue to excel with your work while in the field. There are many people with diabetes who are doing work that is just as demanding. Your employer does not understand how well a diabetic can keep good control in modern times. With all the current knowledge and the technology available, you could become a very good electrician without being handicapped by your diabetes. Your employer needs to be educated in that respect. I do not feel it is my place to advise you on how you should proceed at this point, but I hope you will take some action that will permit you to continue in you profession.

I know type 1 people who have climbed mountains, and one who walked to the North and South Poles with a team. Two of these individuals were speakers at a type 1 conference in July, this year. They were very inspirational.

I was diagnosed in 1945, when I was 6. I have lived with type 1 for 69 years, and I do not have any diabetes related complications, except for some mild nerve damage. I am married with kids, and grand kids, and was a teacher at the college level for many years. Diabetes has never prevented me from fulfilling my goals. I hope you will have good health, and fulfill all of your goals in the years ahead!!

Do they have an HR department? This is discrimination and I would not stand for it- you totally need to say something to them.

I have total faith a diabetic can do any job - you just need to be prepared and always have stuff put away for low levels.

to be honest - I never disclose my illness at work- not at first anyway. I wait until I’ve got my health insurance and then I tell one or two people I know I can trust (in case something happens to me while at work). This might be silly - having to hide what we have, but it means no one ever gives me a hard time about it.

Good luck.

Do check with your HR department, but also check with the Department of Economic Security (you can probably find a listing in your local phone book in the early “blue pages”), and also the American Diabetes Association, and ask them about discrimination on the basis of diabetes. Unfortunately, there are several jobs that people with Type 1 are not permitted to hold, simply because if we suddenly went low, there could be safety concerns. The military, commercial piloting, and air traffic control are just a few positions that employees can be dismissed for immediately upon diagnosis of Type 1. Electrician may be one of them, but these agencies could tell you for sure. I don’t see why you couldn’t be transferred to an administrative position within the organization.

The American Disabilities Act protects people with diabetes. The only thing you are required to tell people is if you have a condition that “prevents you from doing the job”. You don’t.

While the ADA does provide some protections and mandates reasonable accommodations for employees with diabetes, some job positions essentially prohibit Type 1’s and require specific A1C levels to maintain a job, even if they have been known to be able to perform their tasks successfully. It’s gotten better, but the military in particular is still extremely strict on this. This link from the American Diabetes Association gives a lot of good information that I hope will help, including how to file a grievance: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/know-your-rights/discrimination/employment-discrimination/

If I were you, I would probably start by trying to talk to the boss. Tell him you thought about what he said and that you want him to know you have good control of your diabetes and that it will not be an issue (or something to that effect). See if you can help him understand why you should be permitted to continue (without being threatening). If this decision is coming from higher up, offer to talk to the higher ups as well and say that you would like the chance to explain (or prove) why diabetes will not hold you back.

Just my opinion. I personally don’t know if I would want to get caught up in the legal process to file a complaint, but then again I’ve never run into this in my own life.

sounds like you are wayyyy too good in the warehouse to let go. I do hate political “blocks” at work but they happen. “prefer you let you go”? sounds like intimidation to me. depending on your confidence, you might want to consider a interview outside your group, this could backfire.

no easy answer on this one - are they blocking you from the apprenticeship program or just from the idea of a future transfer? How is your network with the others (especially in the management of the apprenticeship program) if you make friends there, they might not be able to block you from the program.

Many people in the north east enroll in electrician training night school, then work as apprentices during the day. given the right company, they pay you enough to offset the school. it’s grueling but you get what you need.

t1 not being able to handle it? horse $%%#. When someone builds a wall in front of you, it is often a test to see how much you want it. I have been crawling around construction projects and sites for the last 20 years. I am not an electrician. best of luck to you.

I don’t know anything about being an electrician, but I seriously doubt that your diabetes would prevent you from being able to perform the job. I’m a zookeeper. It’s very physically demanding work. Occasionally dangerous work. My boss and I are both diabetic and we get by just fine. It’s just a matter of being prepared. That said, your boss probably doesn’t know very much about diabetes. The times that I’ve encountered opposition from an employer or potential employer it was borne of ignorance, not malice. I would go to HR first, if that’s an option, because what you described is most definitely discrimination. Then I would try talking to your boss about his concerns. Find out what exactly he’s worried about and suggest ways (accommodations, but maybe don’t call them that) to work around his worries. And I would recommend looking into other ways (other companies?) to complete your training, just in case. Yes, I’m pretty sure you’re legally entitled to work with these people, but do you still want to?

You are definitely begin discriminated against under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADC), and need to address it now, unless you want to give up your dream job. First, talk to someone from the EEOC, (http://www.eeoc.gov/) about what your rights are. There are very few jobs that are not available to a person with diabetes, but if the company can make reasonable accommodations to allow you to do the job, they must do that.
http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/diabetes.cfm
After you talk to the EEOC, they will tell you how to approach your boss and/or the HR department.
As far as being an electrician, I can’t think of any reason why this should be a problem, particularly if you stay in good control and check your sugar level frequently. I am an Electrical Engineer, and though I don’t have to climb poles or work with very high voltage, I work with extremely expensive circuit boards and equipment, and it has never been an issue. If I feel at all light-headed, I test and eat if necessary, before handling hardware. In 17 years I’ve never harmed myself or any equipment.
I also have a friend who is a UPS delivery driver, and he hid his diabetes from the company for years for fear that they would fire him. Eventually, they found out and did fire him, but he worked with the ADA and EEOC who provided him with legal representation with the company. Not only did he get his job back, but the company now understands that they are required by law not to discriminate against him. And UPS is a big company. That said, I am quite sure that UPS and many other companies would find some “reason” not to hire a person with any disability; they just don’t want to deal with it. So in getting any new job, I’d agree I would not tell a prospective employer. And they are not allowed to ask you about any disability.

Perhaps you could get someone from the JDRF or ADA to come speak to your boss. You may want to attack this issue first with understanding and education. Your boss may just be ignorant. If that makes no difference at all, then take another route. You have a right to do what you want. No one should be able to take that away from you. Everyone above already covered a lot of the other stuff, so I won’t repeat it.