Be the Boss Over Cancer

I am almost finished with my cancer treatment but have been off work for 8 mo. It is scary to think of job hunting while bald. I am attempting to return to my prior employer and need to know if  the american disabilities act protects me in any way. Any advice for people in this situation?   


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  • Margot Larson

    Margot Larson on Feb 27, 2013

    Career Coach Comment:

    Beth –

    I feel your concern and discomfort about baldness.  I found this a particularly difficult time in
    my journey during and post chemo. 
    Personally, I dealt with it by wearing a very attractive wig that was
    similar to my own hair color, though shorter in style.  I felt I looked really good and many people
    did not know for sure whether it was a wig or I had just cut my hair shorter.

    It also made it very easy to get ready in the morning before
    going to a meeting with a customer or with colleagues.  It was also comfortable in the cold weather.  If you cannot afford a wig, you should know
    that you can probably get a free wig from the American Cancer Society, some
    hairdressers and other cancer organizations. My insurance reimbursed me for
    most of the cost of my wig.  All I needed
    to submit was a script from my doctor.  I
    would have paid for it anyway because I felt it was a worthwhile expense if it
    made me feel better about myself.

    If you opt not to wear a wig, I have seen some people wearing
    very attractive colorful scarves with a flair. 
    There are many ways to tie them that make them look like a special headdress.
     Consider using  jewelry , color coordination, attractive eye
    makeup to shift the focus away from your hair or head.

     I will leave it to our legal experts to address the ADA issues.

     I hope this is
    helpful to you.   


  • Eva LaManna

    Eva LaManna on Feb 28, 2013

    Cancer Rights Attorney Comment:

    Hi Beth,

    As Margot did such a great job explaining the first part of
    your question, I just want to touch on the protections offered by the Americans
    with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

    The ADA provides protections by preventing certain
    employers from making employment decisions based on an eligible employee’s current
    or past cancer diagnosis, such as not hiring you, terminating your contract, or
    taking back your job offer, just because they find out information about your
    medical condition. The ADA applies to private employers with 15 or more
    employees and protects against discrimination in all phases of the employment
    process.  That means it protects job applicants as well as employees. Also note that for federal government employees,
    the Federal Rehabilitation Act offers the same protections as the ADA.

    In order to be eligible for these protections, you must have a disability
    under the ADA, be qualified for the job, your employer must know about your
    cancer diagnosis. Cancer can be considered a disability under the ADA, although it is determined on a case-by-case basis.  It seems like
    you are probably qualified, as you are returning to a previous employer. I am
    not sure if your previous employer knows of your diagnosis, but keep in mind
    that if they do not and you choose to wear a wig and not disclose, then the ADA
    may not apply. 

    Additionally, the ADA requires employers to provide
    reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees with a disability, as
    long as the accommodation requested won’t cause the employer an undue hardship.  Reasonable accommodations under the ADA are any
    changes in the interview process or your workplace that will help you to
    continue to perform your job.  For example, changing the location or
    modifying the application policies. For more info on qualifying for reasonable
    accommodations, you can visit

    For more information on the ADA, including eligibility
    and protections, please check out the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    (EEOC) at

    I hope this helped clear up some of your questions, but
    please feel free to write back if you have more!



    Eva LaManna, Esq.

    Manager of Programs  

    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.

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