Diabetes Bias Found at FBI
MAY 22 — In a verdict that comes as a victory for people fighting diabetes-related job discrimination, a federal jury decided this week that it was unlawful for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to deny employment to a qualified applicant because of his diabetes.
Jeff Kapche, a veteran police officer and detective with the Fort Bend County, Texas, Sheriff's Department, filed suit after he was denied a special agent position with the FBI because he manages his type 1 diabetes with insulin injections and not a pump. Though Kapche, 41, passed all exams required by the FBI and provided written evidence of his good diabetes control, the bureau said the job was too unsafe and unpredictable for someone who relies on insulin injections.
Two years after he sued the U.S. attorney general (now Eric H. Holder Jr.), Kapche said he was relieved by and excited about the May 20 verdict by the federal jury in Washington, D.C. The jury found the FBI liable and awarded Kapche $100,000 in damages after a six-day trial. "The stress of going through years of this, it was relief, not just for me and my family but that this type of ban and discrimination would not continue," he says. "Icing on the cake for me is to have the jury say, 'We agree with Jeff, and this is horrible.' "
Now a federal judge will decide what equitable relief—like back pay or the special agent position with the FBI—Kapche is due based on the jury's finding. The government will have 60 days in which to file an appeal.
The case, Kapche v. Holder, was argued by a team of lawyers, including American Diabetes Association Vice Chair of the Board John W. Griffin, Jr., who had represented Kapche in an earlier employment discrimination case. (In that case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in 2002 that the San Antonio Police Department could not deny Kapche a job as an officer just because he has diabetes. It also decided that blanket bans were unlawful.) "The court's decision to no longer allow discrimination based on how a person treats their diabetes is fair and just," says Griffin of the FBI case.
Diabetes advocates—including ADA—hope the federal jury's decision will pave the way for equal opportunities for people with diabetes. "Because of Jeff Kapche, others with diabetes no longer need to check their dreams at the door," says Kathy Butler, a member of ADA's Legal Advocacy Subcommittee who also represented Kapche at trial. The prospect of helping others with diabetes fight discrimination is what drove Kapche to fight the most recent case. "I said, 'The fight is not over yet. The discrimination is not ending,' " he says. "I couldn't let the horrible policies be placed on someone else."