Is Celiac Disease A Disability ? | QA with Alicia

Have you ever eaten at P.F. Chang’s? Did you notice that their gluten free foods cost more than other menu items? Maybe not, because gluten free foods always cost more than “regular” foods. One woman noticed. She’s suing the restaurant chain for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is her argument that Celiac disease is a disability and therefore charging customers who choose gluten free items more for their meal breaks that law. The case hasn’t been decided yet, but it did get me thinking. Is Celiac disease a disability? Should Celiac disease be treated as a disability?

I don’t know if there’s an answer. It’s treated as a disability under the ADA in the sense that your employer must provide you additional bathroom breaks if necessary and make sure there’s gluten free meals at work events if you have Celiac disease. Also, they can’t use a Celiac diagnosis as a reason to not hire or to terminate you. It is even possible to get disability payments for inability to work because of Celiac. In some respects this is a good thing. You and I know that if we didn’t have gluten free options at work luncheons that would make being a part of work culture difficult if not impossible. If you get glutened and your system is on the fritz bathroom breaks are quite necessary. It’s nice to know that your employer must provide them.

There’s a small caveat to the fact you can get disability payments for Celiac disease. Generally, this only applies to the time before your diagnosis, because when you switch to a gluten free diet the symptoms disappear. This is what has me questioning whether Celiac disease and other food allergies truly constitute disabilities. When I hear the word disability I think of people with illnesses such as Rheumatoid Arthritis who may be in too much pain to work or someone with diabetes who lost a leg. I think of lots of different things. I’m sure you do too. All of those people can’t make their disability vanish by following a special diet like you can when you have Celiac. Is celiac a real disability whereby public companies have to provide Celiac patients with equitable food options? Should every restaurant be forced to carry gluten free items like all public places are required to have handicapped parking spaces? I’m not sure what I think about this case or the general idea of food allergies and Celiac being a disability. What do you think?

Let us know in the comments.

Alicia is a super mom, wife, competitive athlete, and freelance writer. Find out more about her everyday adventures by liking her on Facebook.


  1. It is a difficult question and you have summarized both sides well. I try not to make my celiac situation an issue at work, but often management will provide pizza or cake or cookies and it makes things uncomfortable. I try to keep some GF bars in my desk for such occasions but you can’t help feeling left out and awkward.

  2. For some people, a gluten free diet does not alleviate all of their Celiac symptoms. Additionally, it’s too easy to be accidentally “glutened”. Some folks symptoms are not just of the digestive variety, and can be, albeit temporarily, debilitating.

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