Surviving the difficult ordeal of cancer or taking care of someone with the disease is an overwhelming experience. The financial and emotional burden can force carers and even the patients themselves to work in order to cover the expenses. Holding a job also guarantees medical insurance that comes in handy during emergency needs.

Some employers are open-minded and supportive. They hire qualified applicants for the positions or allow their employees who are cancer survivors to return to their jobs. Family members who need some time to take care of their loved ones suffering from illness are also given special consideration. There are also federal and state laws that protect the caregiver and cancer patient rights at work in California.

The ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act refrains employers and co-workers from making some unethical actions against people with disabilities. Other laws are the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Both ensure job protection and monetary benefits while on leave.

Employment rights

The right to be hired and keep the job

Under the laws, no employer has the right to treat a person with a cancer history differently. Qualified applicants are hired based on their skills, education, experiences, and ability to do the job’s responsibilities.

Cancer survivors and caregivers are protected against the following discriminatory actions:

  • Demotion
  • Termination without serious grounds
  • Hours or wage violations
  •  Harassment or name-calling
  • Unfair schedule changes
  • Exclusion from meetings
  • Docked pay

The right not to be asked about health history

To ensure fair hiring decisions, the federal and state laws mandate the employers not to ask about health history unless the disability condition is visible and they believe that the condition may directly underscore the performance. After the person is offered the position, the employer can ask health-related questions to everyone with some health issues.

The right to a conducive accommodation or enjoy flexible work hours

To help the employee with cancer during and after the treatment, the laws require employers to provide safe and comfortable accommodation. There should also be leniency regarding working schedules, workspace changes, policy reforms, or technology use. Allowing the employee to follow flexible work hours until such time that the cancer therapy is complete is guaranteed by federal and state laws.

The right to take medical leaves

This right is included in state laws, federal laws, and employer’s company policies. The FMLA, for instance, requires all U.S. companies to grant employees up to 3 months (12 weeks) of leave without pay per year. Employers cannot refuse a request that is related to cancer treatment. Also, the laws guarantee that employees can go back to their job once their leave is over without worrying about retaliation or discrimination.

The CFRA or California Family Rights Act also mandates that employers with 50 or more employees grant 12 weeks of unpaid or paid leave to covered employees every year. This applies to a spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, or grandparent of a cancer patient who needs to be with their loved one during the difficult period of treatment or recovery. While the context of this right does not guarantee the security of the job, it provides monetary benefits that keep the family afloat during the stressful period. If done within rights, your employer does not have the right to fire you.

The right to qualify for disability insurance

Often, cancer forces you to take a break from working temporarily. You can claim disability insurance via California’s state temporary disability program or federal Social Security Disability during this time. Being qualified for the state program grants up to 60% to 70% of the average wages. The Social Security program covers patients with terminal, aggressive, or recurrent cancer conditions. It can grant a portion of the average wages and cover medical care regularly for a minimum of 3 years, depending on the severity of the situation.


Being a cancer-stricken patient, cancer survivor, or caregiver for a loved one with the disease means coping with many things. Laws that protect the rights of employees provide peace of mind that despite emotional and health issues, the money comes into the family coffer and offers financial security. If you suffer from any discriminatory act mentioned above, you can file a claim or case against the abusive employer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).


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