Rights for Workers with Diabetes During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- As a person with diabetes, you qualify for protection by the Americans with Disabilities Act. That federal law requires covered employers to provide employees with disabilities, such as diabetes, reasonable accommodations so that they can perform their job functions.
- In addition, employees who have worked more than 1,250 hours in 12 months for companies with more than 50 people are entitled to protection under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law provides 12 weeks of leave for employees who themselves have, or have a family member with, a serious health condition.
- You might also have rights under the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act – which includes the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) – or other state and local laws.
A reasonable accommodation is any change to the application or hiring process, to the job, to the way the job is done, or the work environment that allows a person with a disability who is qualified for the job to perform the essential functions of that job or enjoy equal employment opportunities. Reasonable accommodations, as their name implies, must be reasonable. This means they cannot pose an undue hardship on your employer.
For more information on reasonable accommodations, refer to the American Diabetes Association’s fact sheet here: http://main.diabetes.org/dorg/PDFs/Advocacy/Discrimination/fact-sheet-reasonable-accommodations.pdf
They will vary based on an individual’s job functions. The most common accommodations that people with diabetes are requesting are:
- Temporary reassignment of certain job functions to allow for physical distancing
- Temporary reassignment to another position that is vacant
- Provision of parking so that employee may avoid public transit
- Permission to use personal protective equipment such as gloves/masks
Example: Whether your request to wear a mask is a reasonable accommodation may depend on several factors. Some of those factors could include: if you are providing your own mask or requesting that the employer provide one; what your particular condition and attendant risks are; whether your job functions pose additional risks (e.g. healthcare workers); and more.
If you are not able to telework, you can explore the remaining options above with your employer, and ask if they have any suggestions for accommodations.
Yes. There is no “limit” on how many accommodations a person may request.
Check to see if your company has a policy, sometimes in the employee handbook, that directs you how to make a request. If your company has an HR department, you can make your request to a person in HR, otherwise you can make a request directly to your supervisor. It is best to provide as much information as possible to the employer up front explaining what accommodation you are requesting and why you need that accommodation. While you are not required to provide supporting information up front, doing so will help your employer understand your needs and may speed up the process. You can share the American Diabetes Association’s resources with your employer to help explain how COVID-19 affects people with diabetes, available here: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/treatment-care/planning-sick-days/coronavirus
No. The Americans with Disabilities Act only provides the right to reasonable accommodations for the person with a disability themselves; it does not provide the right to reasonable accommodations for persons who are associated with people with disabilities. However, you can request leave under FMLA, EFMLEA, or the EPSLA to care for your loved one, if you qualify.
First, you may want to continue the conversation with your employer to understand why your request was denied. The law requires that employers participate in an interactive process with employees to determine whether any reasonable accommodations can be made, so speak with your employer to understand whether other options exist. If you believe you have been denied an accommodation that was, in fact, reasonable, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Yes. An employer may request reasonable documentation where a disability or the need for reasonable accommodation is not known or obvious. But, an employer can only request documentation necessary to establish that the employee has diabetes and to explain why an accommodation is needed. In addition, if you have been sick, if your employer has a reasonable belief that you may be unable to perform your job or may pose a direct threat to herself or others, the employer may ask for medical information to make an assessment of your present ability to perform your job and to do so safely.
It is against the law for an employer to fire an employee because of a request for FMLA leave and under the new Families First law. If you request leave as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the employer must determine whether leave is a reasonable accommodation. If it is not, it must determine whether there are any other accommodations it can offer that would be an effective accommodation.
It depends. Under FMLA, employees receive job-protected leave, but that law does not require employers to provide paid leave. It also allows employers to require employees to use up all their PTO prior to using any FMLA leave. Under the new FMLA Expansion, employees may use PTO for the first 10 days. After the first 10 days, the FMLA Expansion requires employers to offer paid leave to employees who meet the conditions outlined above. Under the new Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, employers cannot require you to use other leave that they provide before you can use the leave provided by this law.
This is a new law, passed by Congress and signed into law by the president on March 18, 2020. The law temporarily expands FMLA (with the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act) and temporarily provides additional paid, short-term leave benefits to certain employees (with the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act). Both laws provide leave benefits only related to COVID-19. The law takes effect by April 2, 2020.
Note: An employer may exclude any employee working for a health care provider or emergency responders from the protections under the FMLA Expansion and Paid Sick Leave portions of the law.
Job-protected leave if you are unable to work (or telework) because your child’s school or childcare provider is closed. For the first 10 days of leave, employers are not required to pay employees, and then the employee must be paid at 2/3 your regular rate. This amount is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 total.
Employers must provide employees with paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate if you cannot work (or telework) because you are: 1. Subject to a local, state, or federal quarantine order; 2. Advised to self-quarantine by a health care provider; or 3. Having symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a diagnosis. The amount is capped at $511 per day and $5,110 total.
It is important to note that employees who are part of a category of citizens (e.g., with certain medical conditions) who have been advised by a government authority to shelter in place, stay at home, isolate or quarantine are included in #1 above. That is, they are considered to be subject to a local, state or federal quarantine order. Because the CDC has advised people with diabetes to stay home, employees with diabetes meet this criteria for eligibility.
Employers must also provide paid sick leave if you: 1. Are caring for someone who is under a state, local, or federal quarantine order or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; 2. Have a child whose school or child care center has been closed; or 3. Are experiencing a similar condition specified by the federal government. For these, you will receive 2/3 your regular rate of pay, capped at $200 per day and $2,000 total.
In sum, employees will receive regular pay for personal quarantine and personal illness situations; but 2/3 pay for leave taken to care for dependents.
It depends. First, the FMLA Expansion Act does not apply to employers with over 500 employees and it might not apply to businesses with fewer than 50 employees, if the law’s requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business. In addition, you must have worked for the employer for at least 30 calendar days. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act applies to private employers the same way that the FMLA Expansion Act does, but, also applies to public agencies with no cap on the size of the public agency. There is no minimum number of days an employee must be working before you can take leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.
Under the FMLA Expansion Act, 12 weeks of leave. Under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, if you are a full-time employee, the law provides 80 hours of leave. If you are a part-time employee, the law provides leave for the average number of hours you work in a given two-week period.
December 31, 2020.
An employee with diabetes may be able to take leave to avoid contracting coronavirus under the new Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) if the employee works for a covered employer and is otherwise eligible. One way in which an employee may be eligible under the EPSLA is if the employee cannot telework and is subject to a local, state or federal quarantine order. Included in this are employees who are part of a category of citizens (e.g., with certain medical conditions) who have been advised by a government authority to shelter in place, stay at home, isolate or quarantine. At this time, the CDC has advised people with diabetes to stay home, so employees with diabetes (or those caring for someone with diabetes) would be eligible for two weeks of paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act on these grounds. In addition, employees can also take leave under the EPSLA if their physician has advised them to self-quarantine on the belief that the employee is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.