Cancer in the Workplace

According to the National Cancer Center Institute (NCCI), this year, there will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States. The NCCI reported the number of new cancer cases for women and men per year is 454.8 per 100,000 people. Also, some of the most common cancers in 2016 are expected to be prostate cancer, kidney cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, bronchus cancer, rectum cancer, colon cancer, skin melanoma, endometrial cancer, thyroid cancer, and leukemia.

The American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended in 2008 by the American’s with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA), prohibits discrimination against individuals with a qualified disability. The ADA applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Federal employees are not covered under the ADA. However, they are afforded the same protections, which is enforced by the Office of Federal Operations of the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC).

An individual who has cancer or had cancer that is in remission is covered by the ADA as amended in 2008. The ADA requires that an employer provides reasonable accommodations for the employee with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities unless it would cause significant expense or difficulty. Most employees with cancer do not require accommodations that are costly or create undue hardship for the employer. Most employees being treated for cancer need accommodations due to the nature of cancer itself as well as side effects from the treatment and medications.

The employee or a health care professional, friend, family member, friend, agent or another representative may request the reasonable accommodation from the employer on behalf of the employee. Examples of reasonable accommodations include, but are not limited to, breaks to take medication or rest, authorization to work from home, leave for doctors appointments, and to restructure the position. Also, an employee may require more than one reasonable accommodation at a time.

The New York Human Rights Law (NYHRL) provides, “It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer…to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations to the known disabilities of an employee.” (Executive Law 296(3). The NYHRL applies to employers with 4 or more employees. In 2015, a Roslyn woman was fired from her job shortly after she needed time off for the third round of chemotherapy. Her employer, a prominent Neurological Surgery CEO in Rockville Centre, ridiculed her for having cancer and blamed her for rising health care premiums. After months of being mocked the woman filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court. The status of this case is currently pending.

If you or someone close to you has been faced with discrimination due to cancer or another known disability and are not receiving proper accommodations from an employer, contact an experienced New York employment lawyer, who can ensure that your rights are protected. Call Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000 or email him at sms@stevensack.com for a consultation.

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