UPS Fired Employee with Brittle Diabetes Instead of Accommodating His Health Needs

UPS Fired Employee with Brittle Diabetes Instead of Accommodating His Health Needs

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing the United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) following an incident regarding an employee with brittle diabetes who was not only not accommodated properly in the workplace but was also allegedly fired when he requested accommodations.

The former employee, who worked as a preloader in a UPS warehouse in Jacksonville, Florida, wore an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor to help him manage his brittle diabetes. The man requested breaks under five minutes in order to "check his blood sugar and eat or drink something if necessary."

UPS, however, refused to grant his request. Not only that, but the HR supervisor at the warehouse apparently labeled him as a "liability," and the company then fired him so they wouldn't have to deal with the inconvenience of his condition.

The EEOC is now suing UPS for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from "discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment."

The employee was allegedly perfectly able to perform the essential functions of his job. His employer is required to provide him with reasonable accommodations to allow him to continue doing his job properly, so long as the accommodations do not require "significant difficulty or expense" on the part of the company.

Asking for regularly scheduled breaks to check blood sugar and eat is considered completely reasonable for a person with diabetes and is even listed as an example on the EEOC's webpage on disability discrimination. Of course, the "reasonableness" of any request depends on the size of the company, type of job, work environment, and a variety of other factors. However, for a large company like UPS in a warehouse-style environment, this request seems perfectly reasonable. According to the EEOC, taking short breaks in between unloading trailers would not have affected the essential functions of the job in question and should not have been grounds for firing the employee or refusing his request for special accommodations.

Furthermore, if UPS was unable to accommodate the employee's needs as requested, it would have been their duty to work with him to find another solution to the problem if at all possible. Their complete refusal to work with their employee, says the EEOC, is evidence of discrimination.

"Over 34 million people have diabetes in the United States," said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for EEOC's Miami district office, in a release. "It is imperative that employers provide reasonable accommodations, especially where the accommodation would pose no expense and little, if any, disruption to the workplace."

We hope justice is served in this case, both for the sake of the man who was fired and for all people with diabetes who have experienced discrimination in the workplace. Large corporations should not be allowed to get away with such unfair treatment of their employees, both because it is unethical and because it sets a precedence for other companies to be able to do the same thing.

Elizabeth Morey

Elizabeth Morey graduated summa cum laude from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI, where she dual majored in English Literature and Spanish with minors in Writing and Business Administration. She was a member of the school's Insignis Honors Society and the president of the literary honors society Lambda Iota Tau.

Some of Elizabeth's special interests include Spanish and English linguistics, modern grammar and spelling, and journalism. She has been writing professionally for more than five years and specializes in health topics such as breast cancer, autism, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. Apart from her work at GreaterGood, she has also written art and culture articles for the Grand Rapids Magazine.

Elizabeth has lived in the beautiful Great Lakes State for most of her life but also loves to travel. She currently resides a short drive away from the dazzling shores of Lake Michigan with her beloved husband.

Back to blog