Job Discrimination Protection for Cancer Patients

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offer protection against discrimination on the job. You are protected against discrimination from your employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The act also emphasizes that, if necessary, you should be provided “reasonable accommodations” in order to continue with your job.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you are allowed to take unpaid leaves of up to 12 weeks without losing your job in case of a serious medical condition. Apart from this, your state may have specific laws to protect against employment discrimination.

For queries related to your specific situation, you need to talk to someone in your organization’s human resources (HR) department. In case your organization does not have an HR department, you can consult a lawyer about your concerns or contact the local chapter of the American Cancer Society.

At times, people with cancer find it difficult to deal with co-workers who may be prejudiced against cancer patients. These co-workers may have false beliefs such as cancer patients vomit 24 hours, a cancer diagnosis implies sure death, or it may be contagious and any contact with the person with cancer should be avoided. Some individuals also fear that chemotherapy make cancer patients shed type of sweat, urine or stool. These individuals may avoid shaking hands with you or sharing the same bathroom. There was an incident wherein an employer had asked an young patient (an employee) to use a different bathroom. The primary reason for these false beliefs is that most people do not have much knowledge on cancer.

However, there have also been co-workers who have demonstrated unbelievable support such as arranging transportation, accompanying the patient to the health center, helping with cooking, and even preparing cooking for the doctors and nurses. These individuals are just co-workers and not friends or family members. Some patients who possess dynamic personalities have organized lunch meetings in order to discuss their experiences with cancer, talk about their plans and try to clear up prejudices.

Apart from coping up with their diagnosis, side effects of treatments such as chemotherapy, the changes occurring in the family and social life, and financial strain, cancer patients should also think about the possibility of losing their job and the security that comes with it.

Your cancer diagnosis may confirm to the definition of disability, as provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A federal law, the ADA provides protection against discrimination based on any type of disability in the workforce. The law has described “disability” as a physical or mental impairment which significantly restricts one or more basic life activities, a proper record of such an impairment, or considered to have such an impairment.

Explicit conditions and ailments have not been defined, but cancer is normally considered a disability in case the disease itself or the treatment side effects limit your ability to perform basic life activities, for instance, walking, caring for yourself, concentrating, or interacting with others.

Cancer survivors who may be experiencing long-term effects of cancer or its treatment, for instance severe depression, loss of cognitive function or fatigue can also be considered to have a disability. However, cancer may not be treated as a disability in case the effects are not long-term or permanent.

There are a lot of alternative options that employees with serious health complication can use. These include short and long-term disability insurance, the Family and Medical Leave Act and variable work schedules. The HR department in your organization can provide you additional information or help you in obtaining the necessary accommodations you may need. To know more about the Americans with Disabilities Act, you can call the ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301.