Health Feature Articles
Can Employers Discriminate Against Me Because I Have Cancer?
Heartland Cancer Information Service, National Cancer Institute
No. Federal and state employee rights laws protect cancer survivors. These laws forbid discrimination and guarantee the right to medical leave.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) bans
discrimination against qualified workers who have
disabilities or a history of disability. As a cancer
survivor, you may not feel "disabled," but you are
legally protected under this term. The ADA covers
private employers with 15 or more workers and public
Under the ADA, employers:
- Cannot require you to take pre-employment exams designed to screen out people with disabilities, such as a history of cancer.
- Cannot ask you medical questions until after they make you a job offer. Then, they can ask only questions that relate specifically to your job.
- Cannot ask you for the results of a genetic test.
- Must make "reasonable" efforts to allow you to do your job, such as making desks, aisles, and restrooms accessible by wheelchair. This also includes allowing you to work a flexible schedule so you can get treatment or medical care, and letting you work part-time or share a job, if necessary.
- Cannot treat you differently from other workers with regard to pay, promotions, insurance and pension benefits, vacation time, job training, or continued employment.
For online information about the ADA, visit http://www.usdoj.gov. For more information about issues facing cancer survivors, call the Cancer Information Service toll free at
1-800-4-CANCER and ask for free materials written
especially for cancer survivors.
The Cancer Information Service (CIS) of the Heartland, serves Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri & Illinois. The CIS is a program of the National Cancer Institute. Call the CIS toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. local time.
Last Updated 05/05/2009