Chemotherapy and Your Job - Legal Options

Last week we took a look at the hows and whys of keeping your job while undergoing Chemotherapy. While it's important to understand your motivations, it's equally important to understand the legal climate in which you work. The law contains some specific provisions relation to workers suffering from chronic illnesses. We take a look at them in this article. There are three applicable laws that treat with illnesses and disabilities. The Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Worker's Compensation Act.

Family and Medical Leave Act

This is a federal law which recognizes that some people need a leave of absence for prolonged periods from their work. The causes relate to the birth of a child, adoption proceedings, care of family members, and serious illnesses. The intent of the law is to protect the jobs of those people who undergo life situations that are reasonable or beyond their control. It ensures that employers allow at least 12 weeks of leave for eligible employees.

Understandably, this leave is unpaid - but it can come as an absolute life saver if you need to take time off for treatments like Chemotherapy.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Under this law, employers must make reasonable accommodations for those who are disabled. Disability is defined very strictly and refers to an impairment that hampers a major life function such as walking or seeing. Such "reasonable accommodation" can easily include a leave of absence. However, courts have held that sporadic illnesses that come and go need not qualify as a disability.

Workers Compensation Act

The scope of this law is only restricted to those disabilities or injuries that arise while or through occupational activities. In this case, the law provides several protections and benefits to employees who are eligible.

Dealing with your Boss

The most important thing is to be honest with your boss. True, you may be afraid to face possible discrimination or be made to feel that you're getting special treatment, but in the end the truth is always better. If your work is affected, your boss might draw the wrong conclusions if you don't tell him or her.

Be aware of the policies of your company as it will likely have rules to cover this sort of situation including a leave of absence. If you're feeling upto it, you can try and negotiate your work to make it part time or even try and get your boss to shift you to another department.


As we saw earlier, keeping your job can really help you maintain a semblance of a life when undergoing Chemo. And you'll need it after you recover. Knowing that you have an occupation you can go back to is a tremendous relief.

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