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Cancer victims still experience widespread discrimination at work

A cancer diagnosis is no longer always the end of someone’s life — and certainly not the end of their career. Given the constant breakthroughs in medicine and the way that treatments for cancer are becoming both less difficult to endure and more effective, many cancer victims continue working through their treatment. Others take a brief medical leave, fight off the illness and return to work when they’re almost well again.

So why do so many of them still end up feeling like they aren’t as valuable to their employers as they were before their cancer diagnosis?

The 2009 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) were specifically designed with cancer victims in mind. The previous version of the law didn’t cover workers who were facing discrimination when their cancer was in remission. The new changes allowed those with limitations because of their previous medical diagnosis — like cancer — to seek the same sort of accommodations someone with an active disability might seek.

Unfortunately, it seems that cancer survivors are still having a hard time surviving the return to work. Instead of accomplishing an actual change in discrimination, the 2009 amendments may have just given cancer victims a better ability to fight back when they do face problems in the workplace. Studies show that it certainly hasn’t slowed down the number of discrimination complaints being filed.

If you’re a victim of cancer, watch for signs of discrimination once your employer knows of your diagnosis (whether you take time off work or not):

— Suggestions that it is time to retire

— Undue criticism of your work

— Poor reactions to requests for time off for treatment

— A refusal to be flexible about your sick leave

— A sudden and unexplained demotion

— Important meetings suddenly being held while you are out for medical treatment

— A refusal to modify your job duties in response to reasonable requests (such as a request for extra time to complete assignments due to fatigue levels)

— Comments about how your cancer has made you unreliable as “part of the team”

These just represent a few of the ways that an employer might let you know that you aren’t as welcome as you once were.

If you believe your cancer has made you a target of workplace discrimination, an attorney’s guidance can help.

Source:, “Cancer-Based Workplace Discrimination Persists Despite Disability Law, Study Finds,” Christina Mattina, April 19, 2017