Although people are generally more enlightened about cancer than they were a decade ago, misinformation and misconceptions are still common. If you feel discriminated against, take action sooner rather than later:
- Write down what happened when, making the notes detailed and precise, reporting incidents as factually and objectively as possible. If appropriate, save, print or record pertinent voice-mail or e-mail messages.
- Know your rights. Before you do anything at work, look into whether you are protected by the federal American with Disabilities Act or your state's Fair Employment Law. Often, state laws offer more protection than ADA. Locate contact information for your state's Fair Employment Practices Agency at www.triagecancer.org/resources/stateresources.
Among your options:
- Talk to your supervisor or human resources manager. You might solve the problem easily with a meeting or two. If any coworkers recently dealt with a cancer diagnosis, find out if they experienced discrimination and how they handled the situation
- Get legal advice. In some situations, it may be appropriate to meet with an attorney and even take legal action. Sometimes, a decision that you make may affect your ability to take legal action in the future, so meeting with an attorney now can help you make an educated decision.
- National Cancer Legal Services Network provides free legal assistance and referrals to more than 40 programs, for issues such as insurance disputes and employment. Visit the NCSLN website at www.nclsn.org for a map and directory of legal-service providers for people with cancer, as well as a list of employment resources.
- Talk to the Patient Advocate Foundation. This nonprofit organization can connect you with an attorney or case manager who can help you try to resolve cancer-related job-retention issues. Visit patientadvocate.org for more information.
- Many states have their own laws that may provide even more protection than federal laws. For a list of legal resources for each state, visit Triage Cancer's State Resources page, at www.triagecancer.org/resources/stateresources.