Be the Boss Over Cancer

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2009. I went on company paid short term disability right after my surgery in order to recouperate. I returned to work at the beginning of December and started to undergo chemotherapy treatments. I work full time and since the start of chemotherapy on December 14th I have not missed any days of work with the exception of having to leave early for a doctor appointment. The owner has been very accomidating since the start of all of this until last week. I had a chemo treatment on Monday February 15th went back to work the next day and then unfortunatly I came down with a virus and a reaction to the chemo at the same time and missed the remiander of the week. My boss spoke to me on Thursday while I was still sick asking me if I wanted to go on disability again. I told him that this is the first time I have missed and no I did not. I returned to the office this past Monday where he approached me at my desk on my arrival to him saying I should go back on disability that I am not well very pushy and berating. I was still not 100% but ready to work again and I feel/felt very intimated and almost forced to say I would. I spoke to my doctor who feels that work is good for me as do I and I have a desk job so I should not need to go on disability. He also told me that he already has someone he can bring in part time to fill in for me. I feel I would be lying by going on disability and also cant afford to only have 60% of my pay. I need some advice as how to handle this and I hope you can help. I can understand if I had/have been missing days of work due to my chemo treatments but this is not the case. I feel he is trying to push me out and I need to know what my rights are. Thank you for any advice you can give Mary


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  • Rosalind Joffe

    Rosalind Joffe on Feb 24, 2010

    Career Coach Comment:

    Hi Mary,

    Let me start with this caveat. I'm not giving you advice as to what to do, because I don't know enough about your situation or you. But I can offer some ideas and you can see what fits, ok?

    First, before you think in terms of your legal rights, it sounds as if you need to have a frank and honest conversation with you boss. It sounds as if your relationship is becoming adversarial and you want to get back to that place (if in fact you were once there) where you both believe you're on the same team.

    You might ask him why he thinks you should leave work altogether? Does he find your performance has slipped? And if so how - get specifics. Specifics are important to know for all sorts of reasons. Depending on your relationship with him, you can either come up with a plan yourself for how to improve your performance or you can brainstorm this together.

    Most importantly, you're working there because you can do the job. That doesn't mean that there are times that people aren't as productive as others but when you talk about the issues, what people need (both the employee and employer) and how the work can still get done, it changes the nature of the conversation.

    On the other hand, if this doesn't work, and your supervisor won't speak with you or give you specifics, then you might write down where you see your performance slipping and how you are making adjustments to this. Share this with your employer and if you have any human resource help available, you might ask them for help. Also, show this to your doctor and make sure your doctor writes it down just in case you do find you have to file for disability.

    I hope that this helps.

  • Alice McKenney

    Alice McKenney on Feb 25, 2010

    Cancer and Careers Staff Comment:

    Hi Mary,

    This situation also brings up the issue of your legal rights. I wanted to suggest that you speak with someone at the Cancer Legal Resource Center, they are a nonprofit that provides pro-bono counseling on legal and insurance issues and they will have advice about how to approach your boss on this touchy subject. We work very closely with them and their info is below.


    Toll Free: (866) THE-CLRC or (866) 843-2572

    Phone: (213) 736-1455

    TDD: (213) 736-8310

    Fax: (213) 736-1428




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