Last week, I wrote about some things a former employer did – or rather, didn’t do – that violated Reasonable Accommodation laws that protect people with medical conditions. Repercussions from such misbehavior can be far-reaching and harmful.
Upon starting a truly horrible project with a hostile work environment in a dangerous location, the first thing to go was my exercise regimen. I held on for about a month, losing sleep to exercise since I no longer had time with my 1.5 hour commute each way. I didn’t feel it much at first, but my blood sugars started to rise.
The next thing to go was my meal plan. I no longer had time to carefully plan meals and calculate nutritional information. At first, I used frozen and prepared meals to stay on track, but that became expensive and a nutritional challenge. There is no way to track what’s in prepared food any more than there is to track what’s in restaurant food.
Those two things together slowly eroded my blood sugar control, but I was too tired to keep up with monitoring more and increasing my doses of insulin. After about six months, I began to gain weight. With the weight gain came increased insulin resistance, which called for greater and greater doses of insulin.
I no longer understood my body’s relationship with my conditions.
Once I crossed that particular line, it became a game of tag. I chased after high blood sugars with high insulin doses, confused why I was so high. Or not since I wasn’t controlling my food intake. Every once in a while I would catch myself -- exercise a few times in a week, bring my blood sugars down for a few days – and gain 10 pounds in the process (which happens when an out-of-control diabetic brings themselves under control).
Twenty months of this rollercoaster can be damaging physically and mentally, but the impacts might not show up immediately. Here’s what has manifested in that short time: Since I have caught myself three or four times in my endless game of tag, I have gained 35 pounds, which means my damaged systems have to work much harder for basic functionality. The insulin I need every day has increased by over 100%. I have little spells of vertigo and nausea often enough to notice. I have had to quadruple my blood pressure medication. I have lost 25% of what kidney function I had. I hope that the lab results are temporary, maybe due to dehydration, but I don’t know.
As I struggle to gain the advantage over my own body, I reach for tools that might help: the latest technological advances in diabetes care, meditation, and journaling how I feel during the day. But these are external tools. I have to figure out how to fix the inside with inside tools.
I’ll be honest. I haven’t been this out-of-control for 20 years. It’s scary and depressing. But I keep coming back to the simple fact that this likely wouldn’t have happened if my former employer had followed the law.
But perhaps I can help you avoid my mistakes.
Take Action to Protect Yourself:
- Speak up. Know that you are allowed to ask for what you need, and that your employer can’t share your medical information without your express permission.
- Know your rights. Employers with more than 15 employees must comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, which is where Reasonable Accommodations (RA) laws come from.
- Call for help. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the government agency that oversees RA violations. If you have made reasonable accommodations requests to an employer that refuses to act, you can call their hotline.
- Consult an attorney. If you’re not sure whether you are have a case, call an employment attorney. Some offer a free initial consultation, but many will charge an hourly fee (No retainer should be required unless you hire the attorney to pursue a lawsuit.)