Insulin-Controlled Diabetes Not A Protected Disability

Neil Tropiano brought a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania State Police, alleging that the State refused to hire him as a cadet because of his insulin-dependent diabetes. The State filed a motion to dismiss Tropiano’s lawsuit, alleging that since Tropiano’s diabetes was controlled by insulin, he was not protected by the Federal Rehabilitation Act (a law virtually identical to the Americans With Disabilities Act).

A federal court ruled that in order to be protected by the law, Tropiano would have to show that his diabetes resulted in a substantial limitation in a major life activity. Under the Supreme Court’s dictates in Sutton v. United Airlines, 527 U.S. 471 (1999), the law does not protect persons with impairments “mitigated by corrective measures.” Since Tropiano alleged that his condition was “controlled by a regimen of insulin injections before meals” and this his “treatment affords a great deal of flexibility,” the Court found that he did not suffer from a protected disability as defined by the law.

The Court refused to dismiss Tropiano’s lawsuit in its entirety, however. Tropiano also alleged that he was regarded by the State as being impaired by his diabetes. Since a separate prong of the law prohibits an employer from discriminating against an individual who is “regarded as having a disability” (as opposed to actually having the disability itself), the Court allowed the second prong of Tropiano’s lawsuit to proceed “pending further development of the record.”

Tropiano v. Pennsylvania State Police, 2006 WL 2077013 (E.D.Pa. 2006).

This article appears in the September 2006 issue