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Are you facing workplace discrimination because of your cancer?

A cancer diagnosis can turn a person's world upside down. However, many people can and do continue to work while they're battling the disease. Often, work can help provide a sense of normalcy and something to focus on besides their condition. Most people need to continue working to help deal with medical bills.

How much your cancer impacts your work depends on what you do for a living as well as your course of treatment. You may need some time off for chemotherapy, for example, and if you have surgery. That's why it's often necessary to inform your employer about your diagnosis and to be prepared to tell them what scheduling and other accommodations you may need.

Many people hesitate to disclose their condition in the workplace because they fear being discriminated against or even terminated. That's why it's essential to understand what constitutes discrimination and what your rights are. Discriminatory actions can include;

  • Receiving a demotion without an adequate explanation
  • Being denied a promotion you deserve
  • Not being allowed to participate in decisions or apply for new positions
  • Not being permitted to make up time lost during medical appointments or treatment

Like all types of workplace discrimination, discrimination against employees with cancer can be subtle. Often, it's difficult to tell if an employer's actions were due to cancer or some other reason. Employees with cancer have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

It's also important to determine whether you qualify for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Public employers, schools and companies with over 50 people are required to provide patients as well as caregivers unpaid leave in accordance with the FMLA.

People with cancer can often help prevent workplace discrimination by being upfront with their employers about their diagnosis and what kind of scheduling adjustments they may need. It helps to show your employer that you remain committed to your job. If you've joined a cancer support group, you can likely pick up some tips from others who've been in your situation for dealing with concerns by your boss or colleagues.

If you believe you've been the victim of discrimination, start documenting the details. It's usually best to first address it with your company's human resources department. If you can't resolve the issue at work, it may be wise to consult an attorney with experience handling workplace discrimination cases to seek guidance.

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