Diane D. on February 22, 2011
Hello Career Coach -
I have worked for a big global high tech company for nearly 18 years. I am employed at will. I have a desk job and I work from home in Seattle.
I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer (Stage IV) in October 2005. I was hospitalized for treatment and went on Short Term Disability for roughly 3 months. I returned to work in February 2006. I have continued to work full time since with no extended absences or sick days due to my cancer.
In December 2010 I started my first chemotherapy regime. My doctor said that I should be able to continue working full time while getting treatment. I disclosed the treatment plan and travel restrictions to my manager. The chemo is scheduled to be one appointment a week (about 2½ hours) continuing for 6 months. My doctor advised me not to travel given my diminished immune system.
Back in December, my manager and I agreed that I would let her know if I felt I was unable to keep up with my job duties. To date, I have NOT expressed any concerns about my job duties to my manager.
Last week I had a few complications with my treatment. I notified my manager and I took 1 sick day. Yesterday, my manager called me and said I should really consider going on Short Term Disability. She gave me two reasons.
Reason #1: My upcoming work project will be very demanding and require additional hours of work each week. Plus, travel to LA for planning meetings will be expected since most of the project team is based in LA. She is concerned about my ability to successfully take on this demanding project while I am still undergoing chemo, especially if complications come up again.
Reason #2: Our entire department is overloaded with work. And my manager wants to contract additional people. But the only way she can gain authorization and funds is for a “headcount” to open up. If I go on Short Term Disability, she will gain a temporary headcount to cover my workload. So she needs me to go on Short Term Disability to help her get another resource.
What are my rights in this situation? Am I obligated to go on Short Term Disability because my manager doubts my ability to take on a demanding project? Can I request a different project that might be less demanding? Is my employer obligated to accommodate my request for a less demanding project? Does any of this constitute discrimination based on my disability?
I appreciate any help and guidance you can provide.
Thanks very much,