The population of adults who have survived childhood cancer is growing at a rapid rate. It is estimated that by the year 2010, one in every 250 young adults will be a cancer survivor. Thousands of survivors are staying well, growing up, graduating from college, and successfully entering the workforce. Survivors of childhood leukemia are educators, sports figures, radio announcers, doctors, social workers, dancers, lawyers, and professionals of all types.
Diane Komp, MD, in A Child Shall Lead Them, writes:
I lecture about long-term survivors to each new group of medical students that comes through pediatrics at Yale. I can see from their faces that most of them prefer memorizing the odds that someone will make it than tasting the sweetness of individual victories. "That's very nice, but how representative is that case?"
Not all of them feel that way, though. I watch their faces and can now pick out from their ranks a special type of young person who is being seen in increasing numbers in medical classrooms. Although their classmates cannot tell who they are, I can spot a long-term survivor of childhood cancer five minutes into that lecture.
Despite their numbers, some survivors still face job discrimination due to fears about cancer and its treatment. Under federal law, and many state laws, an employer cannot treat a survivor differently from other employees because of a history of cancer except in certain circumstances. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits many types of job discrimination by employers, employment agencies, state and local governments, and labor unions. In addition, most states have laws that prohibit discrimination based on disabilities, although what these laws cover varies widely.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on actual disability, perceived disability, or history of a disability. Any employer with fifteen or more workers is covered by the ADA. The ADA requires that:
• Employers may not make medical inquiries of an applicant, unless the applicant has a visible disability, e.g., weakness of arm(s) or leg(s), or the applicant has voluntarily disclosed her cancer history. Such questions must be limited to asking the applicant to describe or demonstrate how she would perform essential job functions. Medical inquiries are allowed after a job offer has been made or during a pre-employment medical exam.
• Employers must provide reasonable accommodations unless it causes undue hardship.
• Employers may not discriminate because of family illness.
• Employers are not required to provide health insurance.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title 1 (employment) of the ADA. Call (800) 669-3362 for enforcement publications. Other sections are enforced or have their enforcement coordinated by the US Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division, Public Access Section). The Justice Departments ADA website is at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada.html.
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is an international consulting service that provides free information about how employers can accommodate people with disabilities. The service also provides information about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). JAN can be reached by calling (800) 526-7234.
In the United States, JAN is a service of the Presidents Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. In Canada (JANCANA), it is a service of Human Resources Development Canada and the Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work.
In Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Act provides essentially the same rights as the ADA. The act is administered by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. You can get further information by calling the national office at (613) 995-1151.
If you feel that you have been discriminated against due to your disability or a relatives disability, contact the EEOC or the Canadian Human Rights Commission promptly. In the US, a charge of discrimination generally must be filed within 180 days of the notice of the discriminatory act.
If a leukemia survivor or a member of the family feels that he has been denied a job, fired, forced from a job, denied reasonable accommodation, or discriminated against for promotions or medical leave because of cancer history, contact the Childhood Cancer Ombudsman (listed in Appendix C, Resource Organizations) for help. They can provide the following free services:
• Outside review by experts
• Citations to medical and legal literature
• Analysis of employment contracts
• Instructions in appeal procedures
• Assistance with filing complaints
• Explanations of how to respond to questions on job applications and at interviews
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