Working During Cancer Treatment

23279079You may need to take time off from work as you are undergoing therapy for cancer. In a study with 63,949 patients with cancer, the average patient missed 18 days out of the year, with an average of four and a half hours per week, to treat side effects.

In addition, cancer-related fatigue can be so severe that it disrupts the ability to do daily activities, let alone work. A person may be unable to perform his or her job during this time.

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates that employers permit their employees to have up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the purposes of either receiving treatment for their own illness or to help a family member, such as a child, parent or partner. During your leave of absence, your job will be protected. In addition, your work-related benefits, such as health insurance, must be provided to you during your leave of absence.

The company and employee must meet certain requirements to be allowed to have the unpaid time off. The company must have 50 or more employees. The employee must have worked a minimum of 25 hours/week for one year or more.

The FMLA policy will enable you to have at least a few weeks off while maintaining both your medical insurance, if applicable, and your job.

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will not allow employers to discriminate against employees that have a disability, or a health complication that may limit a person’s ability to perform daily activities. By law, from the time that you are diagnosed with cancer, you meet the criteria to be categorized as disabled and the ADA should provide protection for you. Interpretation of the ADA is challenging, however. The challenge is determining whether the accommodations will cause hardship to the employer.

To obtain accommodations, the employee must inform the employer of his or her disability. The employer decides on the best accommodations for the employee.

With the ADA, your employer is not allowed to fire you because of your cancer diagnosis or health problems from cancer that disrupt your ability to perform tasks. In addition, your employer will also be required to provide accommodations, although the type of accommodations are dependent on factors such as employment hours or job requirements, but the accommodations could include providing you with a flexible schedule so you can obtain treatment or permitting you to work from home.

Whether you will be provided with accommodations or your job will be protected depends on the nature of your job and the business. If your job can only be performed by you and a temporary employee cannot perform the tasks that you did, or if it would be very costly to the business, then it will be considered a hardship for the business and they will not be required to make accommodations or even keep your job.

Depending on your employer and the ADA policy, you may be provided with an accommodation that permits you to work from home and/or have the flexibility to attend other periodic appointments necessary for medical treatment.
Life starts to get back to normal, and then you have moments when you remember. You think, “Wait a second, this is not important. I’m not going to get upset about this. It’s not a big deal.”Barry W. (palatomaxillary and low grade adenocarcinoma of minor salivary gland cancer survivor)