Cancer Patients in the Workforce Have Rights Too

By Kara Miller

Support for cancer patients appears to be everywhere - even 300 pound NFL players wear pink each year to raise awareness and funds. It can therefore be a slap in the face when an employer is unwilling to accommodate chemotherapy appointments or when a worker is fired because of his or her cancer.

Not everyone realizes that cancer is considered a “disability” and workers with cancer have rights under numerous federal and state laws. For example, under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and New York State and City law, workers are entitled to reasonable accommodations so that they can continue to work during treatment. Reasonable accommodations can include things such as part-time modified work schedules, working from home or other telecommuting arrangements, or being reassigned to a less physically demanding vacant position. Under the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), those who work at companies with more than 50 employees are entitled to take up to12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during each 12-month period. Many New Yorkers are unaware that cancer would qualify them for short term disability benefits. These benefits will pay 50% of a worker’s average wages, up to a maximum of $170 per week, for up to 26 weeks during each 12-month period. Legal protections do not end once cancer is in remission either. For example, under the ADA, employers cannot ask questions about an applicant’s medical history or require specific applicants to take a medical examination before extending a job offer.

We are proud to partner with doctors and staff at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to help provide legal guidance for cancer patients.

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