Arbitrator finds that employer discriminated against employee with respect to the administration of diabetes related care

This is a very interesting case indeed.  It relates to an employee who was told by their employer to perform blood tests and insulin injections in a room away from their workspace.  The full text can be found here.

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In a recent decision, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 636 v. Tyco Integrated Fire and Security Canada Inc, Arbitrator Laura Trachuk found that an employer discriminated against an employee by requiring him to go to a separate area within the workplace to self-administer medical care related to Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is recognized as a disability under Ontario’s Human Rights Code (the “Code“). People with this type of diabetes must administer insulin and check blood glucose levels throughout the day, including while at work. In this case, the employee’s regular workspace was a cubicle which was shared with other employees. The employer required him to leave the cubicle and go to a private office to administer his care (although he could self-administer at a cubicle in the event of an emergency), citing health and safety concerns. The Union filed a grievance on behalf of the employee alleging that the requirement was contrary to the Collective Agreement and the Code.

Most diabetics I speak to prefer to go somewhere private to do this as it often means that they have to lift up their shirt (to do injections) which they would rather do in private.  Blood testing really can be done anywhere.

Employers are under no obligation to do anything other than not discriminate.  So really the best advice for staff and employer is talking about it and finding out who is comfortable with what.  The worst of all outcomes is when a diabetic is forced to do their tests or injections in the toilets which is unsanitary and feels like banishment, but in my experience is the only option available.  Being open about your diabetes means that you won’t be surprising anyone, they will soon get used to the sight of it all!

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