Union, Management Clarify Diabetes Policy

The Joint Labor Management Safety and Health Committee (JLMSHC) has agreed that the Postal Service must accommodate diabetic employees, including, if necessary, with “a private area to test blood-sugar levels or to take insulin.”

The issue arose in August 2012, when the APWU received an inquiry from a union member who was dissatisfied with local management’s policy, which forced him to use a bathroom stall to inject insulin. The union member asserted that the restroom in an industrial setting was an unsanitary location for him to administer insulin, and could result in medical complications.

The committee discussed the issue several times between Aug. 28, 2012, and Jan. 10, 2013, before the USPS agreed to resolve the issue, reports Gary Kloepfer, the union’s representative on the committee.

The Postal Service also agreed to adhere to the provisions of a document posted by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission) regarding reasonable accommodation of diabetic employees. The document, Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Diabetes, which was first published by the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), outlines questions to consider when accommodating diabetic employees.

The Postal Service said it would comply with all regulations, rulings and interpretations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and EEOC regulations regarding reasonable accommodation requests. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities; the Rehabilitation Act provides similar protections related to federal employment, and EEOC regulations prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on their handicap.

Diabetes and other illnesses are considered disabilities when they substantially limit one or more of a person’s major life activities.

Many individuals with diabetes work with few or no accommodations. However, some workers  need an adjustment in the workplace to better manage and control their condition. Most of the accommodations requested by employees with diabetes, such as regular work schedules, meal breaks, a place to test their blood sugar levels, or a rest area, do not cost employers anything.

If you believe you may need a reasonable accommodation due to a medical handicap or other disability that substantially limits one or more of your major life activities, you should submit a written request for reasonable accommodation in accordance with the above-referenced laws. If you are unsure of the request process, seek assistance from your local or state union.