Employee Rights No Fees Unless We Win
I Have Cancer and I Lost My Job
Do you have cancer? Did you lose your job because you have cancer? If this happened to you, Contact the experienced employment attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC. California has strong laws that protect people in the workplace who have cancer. The attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC know the law and are here to help you.California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) (California Government Code Sections 12900 – 12996)
FEHA prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on several personal characteristics, including cancer, which under FEHA is considered a Medical Condition. This means you should not be treated less favorably in the workplace (than those without cancer) because you have cancer. FEHA requires employers to provide job applicants and employees with reasonable accommodations if they have a disability or a medical condition that renders them unable to perform essential job functions. The employer generally must provide the reasonable accommodation, unless the employer can show that furnishing the accommodation would present an undue hardship.FEHA Protects the Right for People Who Have Cancer to Work
FEHA protections are designed to help workers who have cancer keep their jobs. This is of great societal importance, as the age at which most people retire has risen and cancer has become an increasingly survivable disease.California Family Rights Act ("CFRA") (California Government Code Sections 12945.1, 12945.2, and 19702.3)
A cancer diagnosis can be an emergency that cannot be hidden from your employer. Immediate surgery and then treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be required. Often all the person needs is a few months off from work and then they can resume working as before. Unfortunately, many employers are unwilling to accommodate a worker who has cancer.
Under the CFRA, if you need to take time off from work due to cancer, you are entitled to a total of 12 workweeks of a leave of absence in any 12-month period so long as you have worked for your employer for at least 12 months and during the past 12 months you have worked at least 1,250 hours for your employer.Accommodating You Under FEHA So You Can Keep Your Job
There are many types of cancer and the effect the disease has on a person varies greatly. While some workers will not require a leave of absence or accommodations after a cancer diagnosis, they are in the minority. Most workers will require a leave of absence for surgery, treatment, or recovery. After you have been released to go back to work, while your health has improved and you feel ready to resume many aspects of your life that were put on hold, you may still be experiencing symptoms such as low energy, numbness, body aches, stress, nausea, poor memory, difficultly concentrating, or depression. You may still need to regularly visit your doctor, which will require you to take more time off work than your employer would have allowed prior to your diagnosis. You may feel that you are not quite the same person you were before you became ill. You may feel the need to be honest with yourself and assess what kind of work you can handle in light of your new circumstances.A Leave of Absence as an Accommodation
Say you take a 12 workweek leave of absence under the CFRA for cancer treatment and perhaps surgery. Or say you did not qualify for CFRA leave but your employer provided you with a leave of absence as an accommodation. You then notify your employer that per your treating physician’s orders you cannot return to work for another ten weeks. Your employer could extend your leave for those additional ten weeks as a Reasonable Accommodation under FEHA.A Phased Return to Work as an Accommodation
You may try to negotiate a phased return to work after a leave of absence, only working part time as opposed to full time at first.A Modified Schedule as an Accommodation
You may need a modified schedule, for example, starting later in the day so you can attend morning doctor appointments or treatment.Modified Duties as an Accommodation
You may need to negotiate the elimination of certain physical demanding tasks from your standard job duties. You may be able unable to remain tethered to your cubicle for a full eight hours and need to walk around the office periodically. You may need a closer parking space.Fired Instead of Accommodated
Reasonable accommodations mandate flexibility on the part of employers. While the foregoing examples certainly could qualify as reasonable accommodations under FEHA, some employers will not accommodate you when you return from a leave of absence. Instead, the employer tells you that you have exhausted your leave rights under the CFRA or the Family Medical Leave Act, or that you do not qualify for CFRA or the Family Medical Leave Act, and the employer has no choice but to fire you. This may be a wrongful termination, or a wrongful firing. You may feel angry, outraged, lost, or even blame yourself for being fired. That is the time to take a deep breath and Contact an experienced employment attorney.
Your employer may want the person who first interviewed for the job—the person who could work full time and put in extra hours or take on extra work and hardly ever needed time off from work—not the person you are now. Getting fired after requesting accommodations can be especially tough, given you may not have wanted to dwell on your cancer and were reluctant to discuss your limitations with your employer in the first place.
Wrongful termination or firing can force a person into early retirement. Wrongful termination or firing can force a person to take social security benefits prematurely at a reduced amount. Wrongful termination or firing can send a person into a downward spiral.
Employers take advantage that workers may be focused on their health, caught up in treatment, and not fully aware of their rights under California law.The Effects of Losing Your Job When You Have Cancer
Having a job has many benefits. Obviously receiving an income is a fundamental benefit of a job. Other common benefits are employer-provided health insurance and paid vacation. A job can foster a feeling of self-esteem, of identity, and self-worth. Losing a job may not be a big deal for young, healthy, and skilled workers. They quickly find another job and move on with their lives.
If you have been diagnosed with cancer, losing your job can be a very big deal.Losing Your Job May Mean Losing Financial Security
Working may be a financial necessity, and finding another job while dealing with everything entailed with having cancer may be very difficult.Losing Your Job May Place Additional Strain on Your Mental Health
Working can be central to your psychological health. When you lose your job when you have cancer, residual feelings of normality may be stripped away and replaced with a sense of being fundamentally separate and different from your onetime coworkers.Losing Your Job May Mean Losing Your Health Insurance When You Need It Most
The employer-provided health insurance you were relying on for cancer treatment may end when you are fired. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) may give you the right to stay on your employer’s group health plan for a limited period of time. However, under COBRA, you may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102% of the cost to the plan. That may be something you just cannot afford. Thus, you may find yourself without medical insurance at the point in your life when you have the greatest need for it.Contact Us
If you have cancer and you have lost your job, or if you employer or former employer has otherwise violated your rights under California law due to, for example, Employment Discrimination or Failure To Pay For All Hours Worked, call the experienced employment attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC or Contact Us via our online form.