Autistic Man Fired from Cargill because of stereotypes about Diabetes

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On February 4, 2014, Nik Stahly was excited to get up and go to his new job, his first job. Nik obtained a job with Lab Support, an employment staffing company, who placed Nik at Cargill, the global food processing company. Nik’s stepfather, Brian Tygesson, took Nik to the store to purchase the required steel-toe shoes to get ready for the job. Nik has autism and wanted to ensure that no detail involving his job was overlooked.

When he arrived at Cargill, Nik was greeted by the human resource and safety supervisor, and Nik and his stepfather spoke to the supervisor and explained that Nik was diabetic and needed a place to leave his testing supplies so he could test his blood sugar levels. Nik had been receiving care for his type one (juvenile) diabetes and receives treatment by an insulin pump, glucose tablets, and requires regular testing. Because of his diligence with his care, Nik’s diabetes is well managed and he has never had a severe hypoglycemic episode. The Cargill supervisor offered to allow Nik to leave his testing supplies in her office so they would not get lost or damaged.

For his first day, Nik had an uneventful day working in the warehouse in which he carried boxes of butter and measured ingredients. On his second day, Nik reported for his scheduled shift at 4:00 A.M. and emptied cans of tomatoes until 7:00 A.M. Several hours later, Nik began to work with two other workers sorting and preparing cilantro for cutting and shipping. Having completed that task, Nik began to feel as if his blood glucose levels were falling and needed to test his glucose levels during a break. During the break Nik tested his blood glucose level, which was a little low. So, during the break Nik drank a soda and ate a snack of potato chips and was fine, returning to work on time. Nik completed the remainder of the workday without incident, working until approximately 2:00 P.M. However, Nik was called into the safety supervisor’s office and questioned about his diabetes and his need for testing. He was asked whether it was his fault when his glucose levels dropped. Nik informed the safety supervisor once he gets into a routine, his glucose levels should be fine, but he may need a short break to have a snack. Once he has a snack, he is ok.

That night, Nik was informed that he was fired because he was not the right fit for the job and was “shaky” as a result of his diabetes. Nik was confused and could not understand that if he was doing everything that his doctor told him to do, why was he fired? Nik’s first job lasted two days. Nik was the victim of disability discrimination and should not have been fired, and Disability Independence Group is pleased to represent Nik.

People with diabetes face unfair stereotypes and discrimination at work, at school, and elsewhere in their lives. The American Diabetes Association is committed to ending this discrimination through its legal advocacy program.

“No American should lose a job because of speculation or stereotypes about their disability. Employers have a duty to judge people on their actual abilities and not preemptively exclude them by labeling them a “safety” concern. That’s not only the law, but a fundamental part of who we are as Americans.”

Kathy Butler, chair of the American Diabetes Association Legal Advocacy Subcommittee, employment lawyer in Houston, TX.

Further, the medical profession and those endocrinologists who care and treat persons with diabetes confirm the well-known fact that persons with controlled diabetes should not be precluded from active employment:

“Mild symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) are commonly felt by people with insulin treated diabetes. These symptoms are an early warning signal that leads to effective self-treatment by ingesting a source of sugar, like juice or regular soda, in order to prevent further declines in blood sugar. Effective self-treatment of early symptoms in no way indicates that the person with diabetes is unable to carry out any job-related tasks for which he/she is otherwise qualified. Nor does it indicate greater risk for job-related injury.”

Dan Lorber, MD, FACP, CDE Director of Endocrinology at New York Hospital Queens, Associate Director of the Lang Center for Research and Education, American Diabetes Association volunteer.

For more information about diabetes, please see the Americans with Diabetes website at www.diabetes.org

Resource for Employees with Disabilities – ASKJAN.ORG

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By: Lisa Goodman

Have you ever had any questions about workplace accommodations or the Americans with Disability Act (ADA)? Some of those questions might include:

  • What accommodations could you, as an employee, ask for/be entitled to at your job
  • What accommodations should I ask for given my Disability?
  • What accommodations are you as an employer, required to provide to an employee?

Not immediately knowing the answers to those questions is completely normal. AskJAN.org is a web site for employees and employers to educate themselves on workplace accommodations. JAN is one of several services provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). As an employee, you might find yourself looking for accommodation ideas given your disability but not knowing what accommodations are appropriate to request. AskJAN.org specifically addresses disabilities and the accommodations that the person with the disability might find useful in the workplace. AskJAN.org is an incredible tool because it empowers employees with the knowledge of what accommodations they are entitled to under the law.

Searching accommodation ideas by clicking on “Accommodation Information by Disability” is an effective way to figure out what accommodations you might want to request in the workplace. If you search “By Disability” a list of Disabilities will come up and you will be able to select the appropriate one. JAN also provides information to employers in private businesses, federal employers, and state and local government employers. JAN provides free-consulting services to those employers with questions or concerns about job accommodations for people with Disabilities and ADA compliance.

I hope you find AskJAN.org a very helpful tool moving forward!

ABLE Act of 2013: Update

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By: Aaron Carter Batesportrait of Aaron Bates

On Friday, September 19th, Federal lawmakers announced that a deal was reached to permit The Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2013 (S. 313/H.R.647) to move forward in Congress. The ABLE Act was introduced in 2013 and, with a model based on IRC 529 college savings plans, aims to amend Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code to allow for creation of tax-free savings accounts for individuals with disabilities.

The ABLE Act is critical to further enabling independent, community-based living while eschewing institutionalized care. Typically, the amount of resources one may have access to on a monthly basis cannot exceed $1,100-$2,000 for individuals and $2,000-$3,000 for couples (Please check your State’s specific guidelines. Medicaid income limits also vary by state.  The range for individuals is typically $600-$800 and $1,000-$1,350 for couples.   Some states use a formula based on the individual’s federal SSI benefit level.  In these instances, the eligibility limits are usually three times the SSI benefit.).  Anything exceeding these thresholds, disqualifies an individual with a disability from benefits.

The ABLE Act is designed to lessen the impact of the financial burdens and thresholds associated with being disabled by permitting individuals with disabilities to have tax-free savings accounts available to cover qualified expenses such as education, housing, and transportation. The bill would supplement, but not supplant, benefits provided through private insurance, Medicaid, SSI, employment, and/or other sources. The Act also contains Medicaid fraud protection against abuse and a Medicaid pay-back provision when the individual passes away. It will eliminate barriers to work and saving by preventing dollars saved through ABLE accounts from counting against an individual’s eligibility for any federal benefits program, such as Medicaid or SSI.

On Friday, the Act’s chief sponsors and leaders of the Senate’s Committee on Finance said in a joint statement that they expect the legislation to be considered when Congress returns to Washington in November. “We are committed to working with our House colleagues to ensure this legislation will be passed in a bipartisan, bicameral manner and sent to the president’s desk in the lame duck session,” read the statement from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

The ABLE Act has been under consideration in Congress since 2006 and is sponsored by more than half the members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill passed a House committee in July, but lawmakers indicated they would need to reach an agreement on how to pay for the measure before it would be put up for a floor vote. The deal reached last week will “serve as the foundation for final passage,” the senators said.

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