Can an employer prevent a diabetic from adequately hydrating during work?

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Can an employer prevent a diabetic from adequately hydrating during work?

My husband works retail and has been mandated to stay at his counter, or within clear sight of it, at all times. He his a disabled vet and a diabetic and needs to regularly sip on water to stay adequately hydrated. His employer forbids him from having a bottle of water hidden under his counter for use during the day, and his mandated station is too far from the drinking fountain for him to run over, sip, and return without getting in trouble.

He already had a severed dehydration issue last year that ended in hospitalization, due to the no water on the job rule. Does he have any options here or does he just have to suffer? He is looking for other work but he is 56 years old and not many folks are hiring vets around here.

Asked on July 28, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

This is likely illegal disability-related (diabetes is a disability for this purpose) discrimination, which means your husband may be entiteld to compensation (or at least getting an order or settlement requiring them to allow him to hydrate). The law requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" to employees with disabilities. Keeping a bottle of water at hand is reasonable: it is neither costly nor disruptive to the employer. Since it is reasonable, they cannot legally deny it; if they do, they face a discrimination claim. Your husband should speak to the federal EEOC or your state's equal/civil rights agency about this.


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