Can an employer rescind a job offer to an individual with diabetes if there are concerns about safety?


You’ve extended a conditional job offer to Michael, an applicant for a machine operator position. At his post-offer medical examination, Michael admitted to the doctor that because he often does not take his insulin as prescribed or monitor what he eats, he sometimes feels confused when his glucose levels drop too low. Based on his admitted history of noncompliance, the high temperatures in the plant, and the fact that Michael would have to climb tall ladders and operate dangerous machinery, the doctor concluded that Michael could seriously injure himself if his unregulated diabetes made him lose consciousness or become disoriented. Can you rescind the job offer?


In this instance, yes. The conditional job offer can lawfully be rescinded if the employer relies on the doctor’s assessment that Michael would pose a significant risk of substantial harm.

According to the EEOC, an employer only may exclude an individual with diabetes from a job for safety reasons when the individual poses a direct threat. A “direct threat” is a significant risk of substantial harm to the individual or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced through reasonable accommodation. This determination must be based on objective, factual evidence, including the best recent medical evidence and advances in the treatment of diabetes. An employer must evaluate the individual’s present ability to safely perform the job and consider the duration of the risk, the nature and severity of the potential harm, the likelihood that the potential harm will occur, and the imminence of the potential harm. The harm must be serious and likely to occur, not remote and speculative. Finally, the employer must determine whether any reasonable accommodation would reduce or eliminate the risk.

Source: EEOC Guidance: Questions and Answers about Diabetes in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),, reported in Employment Practices Guide ¶5372.

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