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Your Rights as an Employee Working With Cancer
By some accounts, nearly four in ten men and women in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. Many members of America’s workforce are diagnosed with cancer each year. Older workers are particularly affected. Unfortunately, many workers with cancer experience discrimination in the holding and obtaining employment. If this has happened to you, the following information might be useful. You have a right to be free of discrimination in the workplace. If you do suffer discrimination, you have a right to seek all available remedies.
As a California employee working with cancer, you have the right to:
- Communicate with your employer. You will need help from your employer to keep your job and continue working after a cancer diagnosis. You may require a medical leave of absence or a reasonable accommodation excusing you from performing certain job duties. Communication is the key. Do not leave your employer guessing as to what you need as an employee with cancer. Speak with your employer’s human resource (HR) department. HR professionals know your employer’s employment policies and benefits. If your employer does not have an HR department, speak with your immediate supervisor or another managerial employee. If you feel you are being discriminated or retaliated against because you have cancer, do not keep it to yourself—tell your employer. You have the right to be free from discrimination and retaliation. You have the right to seek damages if your employer does discriminate against you. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California Government Code sections 12900 – 12996) is chief among the various state and federal laws designed to protect you from discrimination and retaliation.
- Request a medical leave of absence. Are you temporarily unable to perform your customary work due to cancer? If so, you may be entitled to an unpaid, job-protected medical leave of absence under the California Family Rights Act (California Government Code sections 12945.1, 12945.2, and 19702.3). For details, including a description of eligibility requirements, please see our California Family Rights Act webpage. The California Family Rights Act is similar to but more expansive than the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Request a reasonable accommodation. Are you, due to cancer, only able to perform some but not all of your customary job duties? If so, you may request a reasonable accommodation from your employer. A reasonable accommodation is something your employer does so you can continue working. For example, you may temporarily be unable to work a full 8-hour day. An accommodation might be for you to work 6 hours per day as opposed to 8 hours. Please see our What are Some Reasonable Accommodations at Work for Disabled Employees? webpage for more examples.
- Apply for short-term Disability Insurance benefits. Are you temporarily unable to perform your customary work due to cancer? If so, you may be eligible for Disability Insurance benefits. Disability Insurance offers partial wage replacement benefits under the California State Disability Insurance program. As a worker in California, you have contributed to the program through payroll deductions. You may apply for benefits through the Employment Development Department. Several eligibility requirements apply. Visit the Employment Development Department website for more details. Disability Insurance offers monetary benefits. While Disability Insurance does not provide job protection, you will likely be on a job-protected medical leave of absence while receiving Disability Insurance benefits. You may not receive both Unemployment Insurance benefits and Disability Insurance benefits. You may not receive Disability Insurance benefits if your employer continues to pay your full wages while you are unable to work. Disability Insurance benefits can continue for up to 52 weeks. Your weekly benefit is based on the wages you earned 5 to 18 months before filing your Disability Insurance claim. Disability Insurance benefits are not wages for tax purposes. If your employer terminates your employment, this will not affect your eligibility for Disability Insurance benefits.
- Apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Are you unable to perform your customary work due to cancer? Is the medical condition rendering you unable to work expected to last more than one year? If your answer to both these questions is a yes, then you may want to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Several eligibility requirements apply. The program is administered through the Social Security Administration. Medicare coverage automatically begins two years after you first receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.
- Apply for California Unemployment Insurance benefits. Did your employer terminate your employment because you have cancer? If so, you may be eligible for California Unemployment Insurance benefits. The program offers a weekly monetary benefit amount based on your earnings from all employers over the past 18 months. Several eligibility requirements apply. You may apply for benefits through the Employment Development Department.
- File a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department. Did your employer terminate your employment because you have cancer? Did your employer otherwise discriminate against you because you have cancer? If your answer to either of these questions is a yes, you may file a discrimination complaint with the California Civil Rights Department. If the department determines it has jurisdiction over your claim, it may then investigate. After an investigation, the department may (i) pursue your case in mandatory mediation (and perhaps eventually in court), or (ii) close your case and issue a right-to-sue notice. If your employer discriminates against you, promptly file your complaint with the Civil Rights Department. Strict time limits apply.
- Obtain a right-to-sue notice from the California Civil Rights Department and file a lawsuit against your employer. If your employer terminated your employment or otherwise discriminated against you because you have cancer, you may sue your employer in a court of law. You must first obtain a right-to-sue notice from the California Civil Rights Department, usually by obtaining an immediate right-to-sue notice. You have one year from the date of your right-to-sue notice to file a lawsuit.
- Contact an experienced employment attorney. If your employer has violated your rights, you may want to consult with an experienced employment attorney. Prosecuting a claim against an employer is complex task. All factual, legal, and procedural aspects of you claim must be addressed. An experienced employment attorney can make the difference between you losing your case and winning your case.
Did your employer terminate your employment after you were diagnosed with cancer? Did your employer demote you after you were diagnosed with cancer? Did your employer otherwise discriminate against you because you were diagnosed with cancer or because you have a history of cancer? If you experienced discrimination in the workplace because you had cancer, call the experienced and caring employment attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC at 800-786-6562 or Contact Us via our online form. We advance all costs. No recovery, no fee.