Employment and Legal Issues

Although many people with cancer feel unable to work during treatment, some find it valuable to maintain as much of their “normal” lifestyle as possible. There is no reason why a person with cancer who feels able to work should not be able to do so.

Three federal laws provide some protections and benefits for people with cancer and their caregivers:

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, anyone who has had cancer is considered disabled and is entitled to reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified employee with a disability to perform essential job functions.

An employer is only required to accommodate a “known” disability of a qualified applicant or employee. You are responsible for notifying your employer of the disability. The employer is not obligated to provide accommodation if the employee does not ask. The ADA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law allows an ill person or a family member caring for an ill person to take up to 12 weeks off from work – without pay but with no loss of benefits. It gives cancer survivors time for physical rehabilitation or counseling they may need before they return to their old job or start a new one.

Under the law, the employee is required to provide the employer 30 days notice before the FMLA is scheduled to begin unless there is a medical emergency. FMLA applies to employers of 50 or more employees as well as to public agencies.

Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under this law, people with cancer may be eligible for job retraining if they seek a different kind of work than they did before cancer. State government employment agencies can help with this process.

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