Workplace discrimination and cancer victims

Tennessee employees who have had cancer may be interested to learn that according to a study, despite a 2009 amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act, people who have had cancer are still facing discrimination in the workplace at the same rate as before the amendment. In 1990, the ADA was passed to offer protection to disabled employees. However, employees whose cancer was in remission were not protected. Therefore, if they faced discrimination based on their history of cancer, there was no recourse for them under the ADA. The 2009 amendment changed that.

The study examined EEOC data for 2,500 employees who had filed claims with the agency. Filings that alleged discrimination in hiring, termination and making reasonable accommodations did not show significant change before and after the amendment. However, allegations dealing with intimidation and harassment or employment terms, such as forcing retirement, did increase. Courts were also more likely to find merit in cases dealing with employment terms after the amendment. In other categories, there appeared to be no change.

Researchers believe that oncologists could play a role in setting expectations that will allow employers and employees to agree on reasonable accommodations. In some cases, employers become frustrated with employees' inability to maintain productivity or with their missed time from work.

People who feel they are facing workplace discrimination for any reason might want to talk to an attorney about their rights and how they can best document the discrimination. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees and are not permitted to retaliate against them for seeking them. Furthermore, coworkers are not supposed to discriminate against them or create a hostile environment because of their disability or for other reasons such as race, religion, age or gender.

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