The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers, employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against people with disabilities. The employers covered by the law include:
- All private employers with 15 or more employees
- State and local governments
- The legislative branch of the federal government
- Employment agencies
- Labor unions
Whether the ADA covers a cancer survivor depends on the individual case. Some courts have concluded cancer survivors are disabled. Others have found that simply being a cancer survivor, when healthy enough to work, is not a disability as defined by the ADA.
The ADA prohibits discrimination when it comes to hiring, firing, and benefits. For instance, employers cannot ask job applicants if they have ever had cancer. But employers do have the right to know if an applicant can perform essential functions of a job. Also, employers can require prospective employees to pass a relevant medical exam.
The law requires employers to treat all employees similarly, regardless of disability. An employer may fire a cancer survivor who would have been terminated even if he or she was not a survivor.
The ADA also prohibits discrimination against family members. Employers may not discriminate against workers because of their relationship or association with a “disabled” person. Employers may not assume that an employee's job performance would be affected by the need to care for a family member who has cancer.
Accommodations under the ADA
The law requires “reasonable accommodation” as long as it is not an “undue hardship” for the employer. Reasonable accommodations generally include changes in work hours or duties because of treatment or doctor’s appointments. An example of an undue hardship may be a situation where an employee must miss a year of work and a temporary employee cannot fill that position.