It should go without saying that employees battling cancer are entitled to equal protection from discrimination and adverse treatment in the workplace. However, sadly, this is not always the case – and cancer-based discrimination cases are unfortunately on the rise. Recently, the Journal of Oncology Practice published a groundbreaking study concerning the effects of a cancer diagnosis on an employee’s workplace well-being. In sum, the results were discouraging to say the least, and researchers found that “discrimination allegations in those with a history of cancer persisted or in certain areas increased.”
The study, which was published on April 18, 2017, involved an in-depth review of allegations of workplace discrimination post-2009 updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act (which enhanced and fortified protections for those battling a chronic illness). The research centered on both “employment discrimination” (e.g., passed over for a promotion) and “workplace relations” (e.g., harassment, discipline or discharge) – both of which revealed an increase in complaint filings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The article further explored the difficult situation in which an employee is in remission, and therefore no longer eligible for ADA coverage under its definition of “chronic illness.” Notwithstanding, employees classified as cancer survivors still report “physical (eg, pain, fatigue, cognitive limitations) and psychosocial (eg, anxiety, depression) long-term and late effects after their cancer diagnosis and/or treatment, which can negatively affect their ability to return to or remain at work.”
One bright spot, as highlighted by the article, is that courts reviewing these complaints were more likely to find merit in the allegations than in other categories of alleged discrimination – which puts these employees in a greater position to receive equal and fair treatment from their employer despite a current or past cancer diagnosis. The article also suggests that including an employee’s oncology team in the employment discussion can help better effectuate communication to the employer in terms of the employee’s strengths and limitations – and may help avoid a difficult situation in the first place.
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If you are facing a difficult situation involving a chronic illness, please contact our employment discrimination law firm today: 516-774-1015.