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What Happens if You Can’t Work Due to Cancer?
Cancer will affect a person in many ways. Whether you will be able to continue working depends on several factors. Cancer does not affect all people equally. Know that the law protects you from discrimination in the workplace due to cancer. Learn about your rights. Be informed.
When a person says he or she can’t work due to cancer, it can mean different things. Some people will have no choice but to leave the workforce permanently. Others will be unable to work for several years. For many people, however, the reason they can’t work is because they don’t believe their employers will accommodate them. Cancer care and treatment are time-consuming and tax both your physical and mental wellbeing. Do you feel you will lose your job if you get the treatment you need so you might as well quit? It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
As to “What Happens if You Can’t Work Due to Cancer?” the answer depends on why it is that you cannot work.Are You Able to Continue Working if Your Employer Adjusts Your Job?
In many instances, a person who thinks he or she can’t work due to cancer could in fact work so long as they receive adjustments to their job. In California, adjustments to your job so you can continue to work after a cancer diagnosis are called “reasonable accommodations.” Could you continue to work if your job were less taxing physically or mentally? Could you continue to work if your employer gave you time off for surgery, radiation treatment, chemotherapy, recovery, or doctor’s visits? For some people, the answer is “No.” They are too ill or require surgery or treatment that will disable them for years. For others, the answer will be along the lines of “maybe” or “I think so.” Factors such as the type of work you do, your precise diagnosis, the rigors of your projected treatment and recovery, and your financial situation will determine whether you can continue to work during and after treatment.Discuss Your Work Limitations With Your Doctor
Do you think you might be able to continue working if provided with reasonable accommodations? If so, discuss the matter with your doctor. Obtain a doctor’s note. While the doctor’s note need not disclose your medical condition or diagnosis, it must document your work limitations.Discuss Your Work Limitations With Your Employer
Examine your employer’s policies and procedures by contacting your employer or human resources department or accessing your employee portal. Give your employer your doctor’s note. Use your employer’s procedure to communicate the adjustments to your employment you need. Communicate in writing when possible. A written record will prove invaluable should a dispute later arise between you and your employer.A Good Faith Interactive Process is Used to Identify Reasonable Accommodations
What may be a reasonable accommodation for one person may not be for another person with a similar diagnosis. You and your employer should communicate freely as to suitable reasonable accommodations. In California, this is called a “timely, good faith, interactive process.” You should be involved and consulted in every stage of the process. Both you and your employer benefit when you work together.Examples of Reasonable Accommodations
A reasonable accommodation can be:
- Time off for doctor’s appointment, hospital visits, or rehabilitation.
- Extra rest breaks.
- Returning to work gradually after a long period of time off work by working fewer days or shorter shifts.
- Flexible work hours.
- Working from home.
- Moving your workspace (for example, so you can access your desk without climbing stairs).
- Changing your performance targets to account for time off from work and fatigue.
- Changing your job role so you have duties more compatible with your limitations.
You are not legally obligated to tell your employer you have cancer. You may provide a doctor’s note documenting your work restrictions and then discuss with your employer what reasonable accommodations you need to continue working without revealing your diagnosis. However, if you don’t disclose your diagnosis, you may struggle to get the accommodations you need before, during, and after treatment. Bottom line: telling your employer about your cancer diagnosis can help build the support you need to continue working. Benefits of continued employment are financial, emotional, and social.Cancer Can Lead to Workplace Discrimination
Even if you don’t reveal your diagnosis, your employer will likely learn about it eventually. Once your employer, through any means, becomes aware that you have a physical or mental impairment, the employer must engage in a timely, good faith, interactive process. Hopefully, your employer will be sympathetic about your situation, and help you keep your job and work when you are able. Some employers will discriminate against workers with cancer. Discrimination may be subtle or obvious. Discrimination may stem from the belief that you will be less productive or otherwise fail to meet expectations. You may be demoted, overlooked for promotion, disciplined for taking time off work for medical treatment and examinations, or excluded from decision-making and training. You may be wrongfully terminated. Telling your employer about your diagnosis may help you later prove that your employer discriminated against you.Are You Unable to Work Even With Reasonable Accommodations?
If you are unable to work even if your employer adjusts your job, consider the following:Health Insurance Coverage
A common concern for workers unable to work due to cancer is health insurance coverage. Many employers provide health insurance benefits. Those benefits often end if you cannot work for an extended period. Most parttime workers and those employed by small employers have no employer-sponsored health insurance. Without adequate insurance coverage, healthcare expenditures can eat up your savings or put you in debt. If you do not have health insurance coverage, you could be responsible for all of your cancer treatment costs. Workers without employer-sponsored health insurance are often enrolled in high-deductible health plans. The upfront costs of these health plans can cause people to delay cancer care and treatment. If you do not have adequate health insurance, explore your options, including your eligibility for Medi-Cal.Paid Leave
Determine whether you are entitled to any form of paid leave.State Disability Insurance
California State Disability Insurance benefit payments may be available to you if due to cancer you cannot perform your usual and customary work. Benefits amounts are about 60 to 70 percent of the wages you earned in the period of 5 to 18 months before making a claim for benefits. Benefits can be paid for a maximum of 52 weeks.Social Security Disability Insurance
If you expect to be unable to work for an extended period, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance program benefits. Bear in mind that the approval process can be lengthy and benefit payments generally do not start immediately upon approval.Contact Us
Have you suffered workplace discrimination due to cancer? Has your employer otherwise violated your rights? For more information and assistance, call the experienced employment discrimination lawyers at Kokozian Law Firm, APC at 323-857-5900, or Contact us via our online form. Ask about our free initial consultation. We advance all costs. No recovery, no fee.