Upon receiving news of a diagnosis, it is common to experience feelings of powerlessness, confusion and loss of control. While these are understandable in the face of cancer, there are ways to prepare and empower oneself. Learning about and understanding one’s legal rights can be integral to regaining the autonomy and control that may feel fleeting.
Unbeknownst to many, there are laws in place that can provide protection to cancer patients and survivors in the workplace. Two of those laws are the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, more commonly known as the ADA, is not often associated with protections extending to cancer patients; but, in fact, this law can be a great benefit to those with a cancer diagnosis who are seeking protection at work. The law requires eligible employers to make “reasonable accommodations” to enable employees to function properly on the job. These “accommodations” can include things such as modifications in work schedules and environments, job reassignment — even something as simple as providing a more comfortable chair. Such changes can make a world of difference for cancer patients and survivors who wish to continue working.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provides employees the opportunity (and right) to take time off of work due to illness or to care for an ill dependent, while having their job protected. The FMLA guarantees that eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, maintain their health insurance benefits while out on leave, and, upon returning to work, be reinstated to their previous position (or one that is the equivalent in terms of salary, benefits and conditions).
For additional information, take a look at the Legal & Financial section of our website — in particular, the article titled “Your Legal Rights in the Workplace: Cancer and the ADA, FMLA.”
If you are concerned that your legal rights may have been violated, consult our piece on “Finding Legal Assistance,” which will direct you to the help you need.