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Working with Cancer


Posted on 11/14/2013 by Jane

Screen cap of site that helps those working with cancer

Employment and Treatment

After the initial pain, heartache, and exhausting research that often comes with a cancer diagnosis, many patients will also have to consider whether they will continue working. Most individuals don’t have the luxury of leaving their job to focus exclusively on their health and others might simply enjoy their job or not want to give up their career. That’s where Cancer and Careers comes in.

Legal Protection

In September, I attended a webinar to help people navigate the decision of working with cancer. Thankfully, there’s laws designed to protect those diagnosed and create a more comfortable work environment if you do decide you are able to work during treatment. Specifically, there’s the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disability Act.

The Americans with Disabilities Act will help make reasonable accommodations for those working through many serious diagnosis. For example, let’s say chemotherapy has made you tired and your job requires you to walk down the hall numerous times a day to the printer – the ADA can help to legally get a printer set up in your office. Like any law, the ADA is not entirely black-and-white and it can, to a degree, be interpreted by people differently – but many requests that relate directly to a diagnosis such as cancer must be accommodated within reason. Reasonable accommodations cost an employer on average less than $500 and are even sometimes free. It can be as little as changing your schedule or making sure you have a few more bathroom breaks during a shift. That said, don’t be shy about speaking up for yourself with your employer.

In my experience however, working with the lovely people who use our site, I’ve learned it can be incredibly difficult to work throughout treatment. If this is the case, the Family Medical Leave Act is worth reviewing. This law allows up to 12 weeks of time off to focus on treatment, surgery, recovery (and watching as many romantic comedies as you can) etc. This is a gift to many people, as it means time off to take care of yourself and even spend time with loved ones. The FMLA time off requirements are also reasonable, so not to worry if you haven’t been at a company for several years. Instead, it’s based on a cumulative amount of hours over a more modest period of time. There’s also an opportunity to get even more extended time off through the ADA.

While we’re certainly not lawyers here at GiveForward and would highly recommend you do your homework regarding both pieces of legislation as well as consult with a lawyer, working with an illness is a possibility. And there’s legislation in place to help make this possible if you decide continuing your career throughout treatment is right for you.

Next up in Working With Cancer….

Should you tell your employer?

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