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Did the New England Patriots discriminate against player because he has a disability?

This week, the New England Patriots cut defensive lineman Kyle Love. According to Love’s agent, Richard Kopelman, the Patriots made this decision shortly after Love was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Due to the timing of the Patriots’ decision, many have questioned whether Love’s disability factored into the Patriots’ decision. Kopelman said that Love had lost weight prior to his diagnosis but after he changed his diet he regained most of the weight.

“Having consulted with leading authorities on the effects of Type 2 diabetes, we have every reason to believe that Kyle will, in the immediate future, be at 100 percent, and will be prepared to participate in training camp in a couple of months,” Kopelman said. “As Kyle said, ‘there is no way something like this is going to stand between me and a long and successful NFL career.'”

It is illegal under federal and Maine law (although, Maine law doesn’t apply to Love) for an employer to discriminate against an employee or applicant because he has a disability. Defying what many think to be common sense, some courts used to be reluctant to find that Type 2 diabetes and many other types of medical conditions constituted disabilities. In 2007, Maine amended its disability discrimination law and, in 2008, the federal government amended its law so that now both laws are much more protective of employees and applicants with diabetes as well as other types of medical conditions. Indeed, under Maine law, diabetes is on a list of conditions that are part of the definition of disability.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued guidance regarding federal laws that prohibit discrimination against employees and applicants with certain types of medical conditions, including diabetes. If you have diabetes and an employer has discriminated against you or failed to provide you with reasonable accommodations, such as time to eat or inject insulin, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to learn more about your rights.

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