Be the Boss Over Cancer

Hello!  In  Jan 2012 I started a new job and in Feb 2012 I was diagnosed with stage 2B HER+ Invasive breast cancer.  I worked the whole time through 2 surgeries, radiation and chemo.  My treatments lasted well over a year  but I never went over sick days or vacation days and managed the time very well.  From start date to March 2013 I had no big problems at work,  met all my goals, but got a few comments from my boss like " You are not really that sick, I knew people with stage 4" when I asked for accommodations. There was a board meeting in March 2013 that would start at 6pm - 11pm.  That day, I had called in and said I would be there for the meeting and everything was ready, but I would need to come in late for the work day because I didn't have the stamina for  9am to 11pm.   It was 4 months short of my finishing treatments, but I was fired.  I filed a lawsuit.   Fast foot forward,  Iam finished with all treatments, now have a temp job (hair has grown back and looking strange but no one can tell if they didn't know me before) and the temp job is considering hiring me full time.  They have to do a background check.  The background check asked if I ever sued a company. I did say yes, but did not provide details because I never disclosed cancer to them.  I told them I was let go due to restructure.   They have not asked me about this yet - but they will.  How do I put this situation diplomatically when they ask me what the lawsuit is about???

6 Comments

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  • Monica Bryant

    Monica Bryant on Aug 24, 2013

    Cancer Rights Attorney Comment:

    Hi Tara,

    In order to give you the best direction we need a bit more
    information.  Where in the process is
    your lawsuit?  If it’s just an EEOC
    complaint that is typically kept confidential. 
    However, if the case was settled or it went to court than its likely
    public so you may want to be prepared to answer questions.  Once I have a sense of that, I am happy to give you some additional thoughts.

    Best,
    Monica Bryant, Esq.
    Cancer Rights Attorney
    COO, Triage Cancer

    Please note that the
    above information is designed to provide general information on the topics
    presented. It is provided with the understanding that the expert is not engaged
    in rendering any legal or professional services in the information provided
    above. The information provided should not be used as a substitute for
    professional services.

  • Tara C.

    Tara C. on Aug 28, 2013

    Thanks Monica. I filed a NYS lawsuit, not Federal and never did the EEOC complaint. It is not settled and we have not yet gone to court. The lawyers are still in the discovery process.

  • Monica Bryant

    Monica Bryant on Sep 5, 2013

    Cancer Rights Attorney Comment:

    Hi Tara,

    Thanks for the clarification.  Some of this will depend on the outcome of
    the case.  Typically when cases are
    settled outside of court part of the settlement can include the fact that the
    details of the case will remain private. 
    However, if you go to court those details will become a matter of public
    record.

    I will leave it to a career coach to address some practical
    strategies for dealing with the question when/if it comes up; however, please know that you
    cannot be required to disclose the details of the case.  Good luck!

    Best,

    Monica
    Bryant, Esq.

    Cancer
    Rights Attorney

    COO, Triage
    Cancer

    Please
    note that the above information is designed to provide general information on
    the topics presented. It is provided with the understanding that the expert is
    not engaged in rendering any legal or professional services in the information
    provided above. The information provided should not be used as a substitute for
    professional services.

  • Tara C.

    Tara C. on Sep 5, 2013

    Thanks Monica! I am still on as a temp employee ( or consultant)  until October 16 but I don't think this is going to work out long term after that, regardless of cancer/lawsuits etc.  It's not feeing like a good fit. 

    I appreciate the advice though, because it may come up again as I continue my search.   XO and Best regards,  Tara

  • Rebecca Nellis

    Rebecca Nellis on Sep 5, 2013

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Tara,

    Yours is a tricky situation but it brings up some good issues that are worth thinking about in advance.  Your instinct is dead on not to lie in any documentation and to think about how you would respond to a direct question, the goal in addressing the question will be to then swivel towards something more productive.  Perhaps something like "there was an unusual issue that couldn't be resolved without legal intervention but due to its resolution, I am not in a position to discuss the details. Now that it is all behind me, I am so excited to discuss the opportunity to do X,Y, Z here, can you tell me more about A, B, C?" Or "the situation was unfortunate and we tried to resolve it without legal intervention but that wasn't possible, I have put it behind me and I am I am so excited to discuss the opportunity to do X,Y, Z here, can you tell me more about A, B, C?"  There of course really isn't a single or right answer or a guarantee that it won't impact a prospective employer's decision but by planning ahead, practicing and being prepared you can hopefully swivel the conversation towards why you are the best person for the job.  Just think through what your most comfortable/authentic response would be and use that.  

    You'll also want to Google yourself regularly and know what is coming up about you, both with regards to the lawsuit and in general, so that you can be prepared to respond to anything that might come up because of an online search.  CAC has a lot of content about your online brand and reputation in our Looking for Work section (http://www.cancerandcareers.org/en/looking-for-work).

    Let us know any follow up questions, and keep us posted!

    Warmly,
    Rebecca

    Rebecca V. Nellis
    VP, Programs and Strategy
    Cancer and Careers  

  • Tara C.

    Tara C. on Sep 6, 2013

    Thanks Rebecca!  That all makes a lot of sense!

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