There are a number of federal laws that can apply to employer obligations, employee rights, and benefits. These laws are for the protection of both the employer and employee. If you’re part of a large company, your Human Resources (HR) department can help navigate benefits and legal issues. For additional information on federal laws that may apply to your employee with cancer.
Many people don’t realize that the ADA can apply to people with cancer. The ADA prohibits discrimination based on an existing or perceived disability. That may include a cancer diagnosis or past occurrence of the disease. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees whose employees disclose their diagnosis or health issue to their supervisor. Compliance with this law may require that the employer provide “reasonable accommodations” unless such accommodations would result in “undue hardship” to the company.
What Is a “Reasonable Accommodation?”
The following legal definition is from the U.S. Department of Justice: "A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to assure that a qualified individual with a disability has rights and privileges in employment equal to those of employees without disabilities."
Consider what accommodations may be required for your employee to perform his or her essential job functions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has published a useful document: Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This document examines in detail what is a “reasonable accommodation” and gives examples of different types.
To determine if and how the ADA may apply to your company if one of your employees has cancer, consult your company’s HR department or legal counsel.
The FMLA gives employees the right to take unpaid time-off without risk of losing their job or health insurance when they or a dependent are ill.
According to the Department of Labor's website, the FMLA:
Applies to workers at all government agencies and schools nationwide, as well as private companies with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the work site. Guarantees that eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, which can be used all at once or in increments as short as a few hours at a time (in the event an employee wants to work part-time or needs time off for appointments).
Guarantees that eligible employees maintain their health insurance benefits while out on leave.
Guarantees that an employee who returns to work from a FMLA leave will be given his or her previous position or an equivalent job with the same salary, benefits and other conditions of employment.
Covers employees who have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, including at least 1,250 hours during the most recent 12 months.
HIPAA gives individuals rights over their health information and sets rules and limitations on who can access it. HIPAA applies to anyone, including those with a serious health condition like cancer or heart disease.
Guarantees access to health insurance in certain circumstances and the ability to bring it along to another job.
Prohibits discrimination based on health status in certain circumstances. Protects medical privacy – including a cancer diagnosis and treatment – by limiting certain people from disclosing information. Sets limits on who can have access to a person's health information in all forms.
Prevents anyone from receiving a person's health information without that person’s consent.
Ensures that only relevant information is shared with 3rd parties.
Employees at companies with 20 or more workers may receive COBRA benefits if they sign up within 60 days of losing their health-care coverage. An eligible employee can get COBRA when he or she leaves his or her job. Former employees who use COBRA must pay the monthly health-insurance premium themselves.
COBRA gives eligible employees and their family members the right to continue receiving their health-insurance benefits for 18 months after leaving the company.
Allows patients to continue seeing their own doctors since they keep the same health plan.
GINA is intended to prevent the use of genetic information in health insurance and employment.
GINA prohibits health insurers or health plans from asking individuals for genetic information.
Prohibits most employers from using genetic information in decisions regarding terms of employment, including hiring, firing or promotions.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was signed into law in March of 2010. Some of its provisions have already taken effect. Additional changes will be added every year until 2018.
Prevents health insurers from denying coverage to people for any reason, including health status.
Prevents health insurers from charging more based on health status and gender.
Requires most individuals to have health insurance beginning in 2014.
Allows individuals who do not have access to coverage through work to purchase coverage through a health insurance exchange.
Enables employees of small businesses to purchase insurance through a separate exchange.
The information on this website was adapted in part from Cancer and Careers.
It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any
specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general
information purposes only. If you believe you may have obligations to an
employee dealing with cancer you are urged to consult a lawyer
concerning your own situation and any specific legal questions you may