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Cancer and Your Job

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If you have cancer and are working or looking for work, you’ll want to know your legal rights. You have two important rights under federal law. First:  You may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of your medical needs. Second:  An employer may not treat you differently just because you have or had cancer.

Unpaid leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires all employers with 50 or more workers to provide employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for their own – or their dependent, spouse, or parent’s – serious medical condition, including cancer. During the leave period, employer-provided health coverage remains in effect. Please contact your American Cancer Society for more details on FMLA and how it can be used.

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers with 15 or more workers from discriminating against workers solely because of a disability. If you’re able to perform the essential duties of a job, an employer may not deny you a job or treat you differently if you have a disability, have a history of a disability, or the employer believes you have a disability. In some cases, cancer is considered a disability. The ADA also requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to help you do your job. Employers may ask medical questions only after offering the job and only if the questions specifically relate to the job. In addition to the federal laws, all states have anti-discrimination laws. Many apply to both public and private employers, as well as employers with fewer than 15 employees.

How can survivors avoid discrimination when applying for a job?

Here are some steps you can take to help avoid employment discrimination:

·      Do not volunteer your cancer history

·      Do not lie about your medical history if directly asked

·      Keep the focus of a job interview on your current health, abilities, and limitations

·      Seek employment with large companies that can be more flexible in job duties and benefits

·      Do not ask about health benefits before getting a job offer

How can survivors deal with discrimination on the job?

Consider these options if discrimination is taking place at work:

·      Try to solve the problem informally

·      Suggest accommodations to your employer

·      Get advice from your doctor and other survivors

·      Keep written records of all job actions

·      Be aware of all filing deadlines under state and federal laws

·      Carefully consider your goals before seeking a lawyer and beginning a lawsuit

For more information about the employment rights of cancer survivors, contact your American Cancer Society. For more on the ADA you can also contact the Job Accommodation Network toll-free at 1-800-526-7234 (TTY: 1-877-781-9403), or online at www.jan.wvu.edu. This free consulting service of the US Department of Labor gives information on the ADA, your rights, how to talk to an employer, and how to ask for accommodations.

Para solicitar información en español, llame al 1-800-227-2345. Un especialista en información sobre el cáncer le asistirá en español.

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