Diebetes Is A Workplace Disability Under California FEHA


diabetes workplace disability

In Rohr v Salt River Project Agric. Improvement & Power Dist (2009) the Court of Appeal held that diabetes is a qualifying disability under ADA. In that case, the claimant – a welding specialist – had an insulin dependency due to his serious diabetes. His doctors made a number of accommodations recommendation to his employer – including not working over nine hours per day, not having him work overnight shifts, not climbing up significant heights, and not working in extreme heat.  At some point the employer gave him the  option of either resigning or being terminated because of his inability to fully perform all his job duties. Mr. Rohr was subsequently fired and filed a lawsuit for disability discrimination and wrongful termination.

The employer argued in court, among other things, that diabetes is not a qualifying ADA disability because it allegedly doesn’t limit a person’s major life activities. The court rejected that argument on appeal, noting that constantly monitoring what one eats, worrying about insulin levels, periodically checking blood sugar, not skipping meals and being able to only eat certain types of foods made Mr. Rohr’s condition a qualifying disability. The court noted that if Plaintiff’s only issue was making sure he takes insulin shots, and he was fine otherwise when taking those shots, it might have not qualified as ADA disability. However, because he had other restrictions even when taking insulin shots, including having to snack on something every few hours, this affected his major life activity – i.e. eating, and thus making it a disability.

The court also noted that in other cases, a much lesser showing was sufficient to establish that diabetes was an ADA disability. For instance, in one case a plaintiff’s statement to court that he had difficulty sleeping and eating was “sufficient to permit a finding that his diabetes substantially limited a major life activity. Gonsalves v. J.F. Fredericks Tool Co., Inc. (1997).

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