Diabetes: Should You Tell Your Boss

It's a tricky situation. On the one hand, you'd rather not have co-workers know about your condition. On the other hand, you potentially could have a severe episode of hypoglycemia at work, and may need help from someone around you.

To tell or not to tell? It's a personal decision, experts say. "We definitely tell people who have Type 1 diabetes, or who have Type 2 diabetes and are on insulin, to let their employer know," says Kelly O'Connor, RD, LDN, CDE, of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "You may want to assure your co-workers that while you have everything under control, if there is any time when you're not feeling well, that you become shaky or disoriented, they may need to supply you with juice."

Be sure to reassure your fellow employees that you see your doctor regularly, and that most likely you won't need their assistance, she says. Remind them that you always carry supplies to treat low blood sugar.

"If you have Type 2 diabetes and it is controlled by diet, I don't know that you have to disclose the fact to an employer," O'Connor says. "Some people don't want others to know about their diabetes because they don't want constant advice about what to eat." And, she adds, some employers may not be knowledgeable about diabetes and assume that an employee with the condition is unable to complete his duties.

Some individuals with diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2) may worry that their employer will treat them differently once they find out they have diabetes, says Alison Massey, MS, RD, LDN, of Mercy Medical Center.

"As someone with diabetes, it's important you be aware of your legal rights," she says. "If you have a job that makes it is difficult to take breaks, for instance, you may need to share the information that you have diabetes in order to be able to have a snack break."   

Whether you decide to disclose or not, there's good news: a federal law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the ADA employment provisions. Diabetes is considered a disability under certain conditions—and employers are required to make "reasonable" accommodations to individuals with diabetes. For instance, an employee with diabetes may need a private area to inject insulin or to test blood sugar, breaks during which she can eat, drink and take medication, and time to take training in how to manage her condition.

Employers are not, however, obliged to make sure an employee is testing her blood sugar or doing insulin. They're also prohibited from disclosing that an individual has diabetes.


"Questions and answers about diabetes in the workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act." The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.