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Posted on July 23, 2019 | Discrimination
Finding out you have cancer is hard enough without also having to deal with requesting time off work, explaining your situation to your boss and dealing with workplace discrimination. The National Cancer Institute estimates over 1.7 million new cancer cases arise each year. More than 40% of cancer patients are working adults. You are not alone as a working-age cancer patient in California. Luckily, state and federal laws protect you from disability discrimination.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal for employers and coworkers to discriminate against people with disabilities. The ADA also covers various medical conditions, including cancer. Thanks to the ADA, your employer cannot discriminate against you upon discovering that you are battling cancer or another serious illness. An employer also cannot discriminate against you for choosing to take time off to care for a loved one with cancer. Discrimination can include many unethical actions.
If your employer or someone else at work is discriminating against you as a cancer patient, you have the right to file a claim against the perpetrator. Go to Human Resources to make an official complaint. If the company does not resolve the issue, take your case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC will conduct an investigation and may penalize your employer for unlawful discrimination.
Your employer also cannot retaliate against you for requesting a medical leave of absence related to your cancer diagnosis or treatment. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave per year without fear of retaliation or job loss. The FMLA requires all employers in the U.S. to give this unpaid leave and maintain the employee’s health benefits during the absence. You have the right to request up to 12 weeks off for medical reasons related to your cancer battle without losing your job.
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) also gives your family members the right to request medical leave. Your parent, spouse, sibling, grandparent or domestic partner could request time off to care for you while receiving monetary benefits. While the CFRA does not guarantee job protection, it does provide financial benefits to help your family through this difficult time. Certain family members may be able to take time away from work without missing their wages.
Like the FMLA, the CFRA requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave per year for covered workers, as long as the employer has at least 50 employees. Employers must provide this leave both to you as the cancer patient and your family members who will act as caretakers. Again, your employer cannot fire you for requesting or taking this leave of absence if you do so within your rights.
Your battle with cancer could disable you enough to force you out of a job – at least temporarily. This could qualify you for disability insurance, either through the federal Social Security system or California’s state program. The state’s temporary disability benefits program gives eligible employees up to 60-70% of their average working wages. Eligible employees are those who temporarily cannot work because of an illness, condition or injury.
Cancer is also a covered condition for Social Security Disability benefits if it is aggressive, recurrent or terminal. If the side effects of your cancer prevent you from working, you could qualify for regular payments from the Social Security Administration. You could receive a fraction of your average wages plus benefits to cover medical care depending on your situation, for at least three years.