A diabetic woman quit her job after her manager allegedly not only sifted through her personal belongings without permission, but also accused her of doing drugs.
The woman, Abby Gebo, posted a video on TikTok in mid-April describing the encounter with management at her former unspecified workplace. The video has been seen about 83,000 times.
She said the manager allegedly “almost called the cops” on her, even announcing to another employee to prepare to make a call. Gebo, who according to the post may be a waitress, said the manager found her insulin in a backpack but did not originally know to who it belonged.
The manager reportedly said he “expected better” from her, inquiring whether she was holding on to the syringe for someone else. He also said he didn’t know she was doing “drugs,” again mentioning the syringe.
Perplexed, she told him she had diabetes and that he already knew that.
“My niece is a diabetic and she does not use syringes,” the manager reportedly said. “I know that they use pumps.”
She explained “that some people can’t afford pumps” so they use vials and syringes, at which point he allegedly told her to “prove it.” So, she showed him the vial.
“You’re lucky,” he said. “I’m watching you. … I’m just making sure none of my staff does drugs.”
That was the point when Gebo told him she quit. In other videos she talks about being a diabetic and being an advocate for others, so they “have access to specialized treatment and to know they are not alone.”
Users were furious that her manager looked through her personal property in the first place. One user with type I diabetes said she would be “livid” if this situation happened to her.
“I would’ve gotten HR involved,” one user said. “It’s illegal to search your personal stuff.”
“Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) they can’t legally ask you so they are breaking the law when they ask you that,” another said.
The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities, of which diabetes is considered under the law. In 2013, when the United States had about 18 million citizens with diabetes, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated that employers “may not ask questions about an applicant’s medical condition or require an applicant to have a medical examination before it makes a conditional job offer .”
That includes asking employees about being diagnosed with diabetes, or whether they use insulin, at a job interview. And even if an employee makes it known to an employer that he or she has diabetes, an employer “generally may not ask an applicant who has voluntarily disclosed that she has diabetes any questions about her diabetes, its treatment or its prognosis.”
Questions could only be asked in that instance if an employee required a specific accommodation. Also, while employers can ask employees with diabetes if they have “a reasonable belief” that a job cannot be performed safely, that didn’t seem to be the case as presented in the TikTok video.
Today, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 37.3 million Americans—or about 1 in 10—have diabetes, including about one in five who have diabetes but have never been diagnosed.
Last year was the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin.
Gebo’s profile also says she is “diabulimia recovery.” The nonprofit National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) calls it a “media-coined term” for an eating disorder in people with diabetes, usually type I diabetes. Such individuals purposefully restrict insulin so they can lose weight.
Some in the medical profession refer to it as ED-DMT1, Eating Disorder-Diabetes Mellitus Type 1, which refers more broadly to any eating disorder in those who have diabetes. ED-DMT1 is perceived as a result of focusing on food, labels, metabolic disruptions, and numbers like weight and blood glucose levels.
“A person may develop diabulimia or ED-DMT1 at any age and at any point after their diabetes diagnosis,” the NEDA says. “Sometimes it begins with body image issues or a desire to lose weight, and sometimes it begins as diabetes burnout. Regardless of how it begins, treatment can be challenging as individuals with type 1 diabetes tend to show higher dropout rates and poorer treatment outcomes than other patients. Treatment regimens must address both the diabetes and eating disorder aspects of the disorder.”
In March the US House passed the Affordable Insulin Now Act, which would cap insulin at $35 and reduce out-of-pocket costs. Earlier this year, California Governor Gavin Newsom said he wanted the state to produce its own insulin.
Newsweek reached out to Gebo for comment.