Cancer affects every part of patients’ lives, including their careers. The rigors of treatment can force someone to take time off and often hurts job performance. In the midst of a battle with cancer, a patient may need to take advantage of rights and protections for people with disabilities, including the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The ADA prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of disability
The ADA protects cancer patients who work for an employer with at least 15 employees from being unfairly treated by their employers as a consequence of their illness. Cancer and its treatment will likely qualify a patient as disabled for ADA purposes. The law’s definition of “disability” captures any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. It also covers people with a history of such impairments (for example, cancer survivors) and someone who is perceived to have such impairments (for example, an employee who has lost his or her hair while undergoing chemotherapy treatments).
Under the ADA an employer cannot take an adverse employment action solely on the basis of a worker’s disability. Instead an employer must take steps to provide a worker with reasonable accommodations that allow the worker to continue employment. Reasonable accommodations might include a changed work schedule, temporary or permanent reassignment to a less demanding role, or physical changes to the workplace to make the employee more comfortable, such as providing a chair where before the employee was asked to stand.
The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 clarifies the ADA’s scope of “disability” to include anything that limits basic bodily functions. It also expressly provides that a condition’s impairments cannot be judged in light of mitigating treatments. For example, a cancer patient who is taking anti-nausea medication may still require accommodations to deal with nausea.
The FMLA offers options for cancer patients and their families
The FMLA protects patients who need to take time off work for treatment by prohibiting employers from firing them. It also protects employees who need to take time off to care for a loved one. An eligible employee may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, cannot lose any employer-provided health insurance coverage while on leave, and must be allowed to return to the same position once leave has ended.
Compared to the ADA the applicability of the FMLA is somewhat narrower. It only applies to employers with at least 50 employees, and an employee must have been employed for at least 12 months to be eligible. Note that unpaid leave may qualify as a “reasonable accommodation” under the ADA only after an employee has exhausted his or her FMLA leave. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides a useful explanation of leave under the ADA here.
GGRM is here to help employees in the Las Vegas area
At Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez we know how difficult it can be to face workplace discrimination while also fighting cancer. Our experienced attorneys shoulder the burden of working out disputes with your employer so you can focus on healing. For a free attorney consultation, reach out to us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contacts page.