Cancer Patients Often Are Protected From Being Fired By the Americans with Disabilities Act


Cancer patients who are having trouble working can look to the Americans with Disabilities Act for the potential to receive “reasonable accommodations” for their disability under the law. Another source of rights for cancer patients is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The ADA provides that “reasonable accommodations” include but are not limited to “job restructuring, reassignment to a vacant position, and part-time or modified work schedules.” While the ADA does not explicitly require employers to offer teleworking (working ffom home or another remote location other than the employer’s primary office), it must allow individuals with cancer an opportunity to participate equally if such a program is indeed in place. The FMLA, which is enforced by the Department of Labor and applies to employees whose employers have 50 or more employees with 75 miles of their worksite, provides eligible cancer patients with the right to take medical leave including intermittent or reduced schedule leavee if they meet certain requirements. For a cancer patient to be covered by the FMLA, the employee is required to have been employed for at least 12 months by the employer from when they seek leave and for at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period immediately preceding the request for leave.

While a relatively large percentage of cases where employees with cancer sue for reasonable accommodations end up being settled favorably prior to going to trial, there have been a few court decisions on the subject. One such case is Garcia-Ayala v. Lederle Parenterals, Inc., where the Court ruled that reasonable accommodations may include “job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, ․ and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.”. Furthermore, the court ruled that for such reasonable accommodation as a modified or reduced schedule to be denied, an employer must show that it would be suffering an undue hardship based on the employee’s recovery needs and the employer’s available resources. In this case, the employee’s position was filled with temporary employees for over 6 months after she was fired. The Court found that the company’s use of temporary employees demonstrated that it could have left the employee’s position open for another two months to allow her to return from cancer related leave.

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