Is cancer a disability?

I_will_survive
I_will_survive Member Posts: 31
edited March 2014 in Breast Cancer #1
I have just been requested by my employer to take a leave of absence until my treatments are over with. This was rather a bit of a shock as they have been very supportive through the first half of my chemo treatments and this came rather "out of the blue" so to speak. I have suspicions of the reasons which I won't go into detail about, however, when I e-mailed a friend about this, he asked if this violated the Americans with Disabilities Act in some way. I don't know if it does or not. Has anyone checked into this?

I have gone thru 4 chemo treatments and have 4 more to go, then 6-7 weeks of rads. After my 3rd treatment, I dislocated my knee (an old problem which, however, hadn't been a problem for the last 14 years) so besides the time out for chemo and doctor appts., I now have physical therapy for my knee twice a week which is generally 2 hours a day. My employer never mentioned before that my missing has been a problem...we've been very slow at work anyway. I've let the proper people know when I'll be gone, etc.

Anyway, I would appreciate any help you all can give in this area.

Thank you.

Comments

  • rizzo15
    rizzo15 Member Posts: 153 Member
    From what I would see, being absent for breast cancer treatment doesn't qualify as a disability. But this changes all the time. I'm looking at this web page: http://www.adata.org/whatsada-definition.html

    Even though I am a salaried employee, not an hourly employee, I like you, always let my employer know when I'd be away from the office. I told them to deduct whatever vacation time they felt was fair. I always tried to get appointments immediately before the lunch hour or immediately after so my time away would be considered a late or early lunch. This was sometimes difficult as the radiology center and the chemo therapy office both said that so few of their patients were working during their treatment period, that they didn't often take work schedules into consideration when booking appointments. Once they figured out I planned to work full-time throughout treatment, they were very accommodating. If another patient arrived late for treatment, that patient was asked to come back at the end of the day because they wanted my treatment to be administered on time. They just told the late-arriving patient that working patients were not going to be penalized because another patient arrives late for therapy.

    California is an "at will" employment state. Employers can dump any employee with absolutely notice. If there are any federal protections, it would take years to litigate. As unfair as it may be, I'd try to get it in writing the time frame you can come back to work. Arguing will put them on the defensive and jeopardize your employment even more. Like I said, it might not be fair...but it's probably the way it will play out.

    I am not surprised at the waning support of the employer and employee of your situation. It's just like when you go on vacation or get the flu. Everybody is "understanding" at first. But when your ongoing absences start to impact their lives, regardless of how trivially, there is a huge backlash of resentment. Again, it is not fair, but now is the time to go out of your way to do all the extra tasks you can and work extra uncompensated hours. The more they see you are trying to make up for your absences, the more slack they will cut you.
  • maggs
    maggs Member Posts: 164
    Yes, it is considered to be a disablilty. But I have not found anyone particularly interested in enforcing the Law. And there should be. We need public representation that I feel is missing for the disabled in general. We don't have much money, and as a group, are pretty much ignored. Seniors have many more insurance options than people under 65 on Medicare. And our income limit is lower, too. I thought we would have a champion in Congress, but I don' t see it. We need one!
    As I recall, John F. Kennedy was interested in abling the disabled before he died. But we don't have a loud public voice now--and we need one!!!
  • I_will_survive
    I_will_survive Member Posts: 31
    rizzo15 said:

    From what I would see, being absent for breast cancer treatment doesn't qualify as a disability. But this changes all the time. I'm looking at this web page: http://www.adata.org/whatsada-definition.html

    Even though I am a salaried employee, not an hourly employee, I like you, always let my employer know when I'd be away from the office. I told them to deduct whatever vacation time they felt was fair. I always tried to get appointments immediately before the lunch hour or immediately after so my time away would be considered a late or early lunch. This was sometimes difficult as the radiology center and the chemo therapy office both said that so few of their patients were working during their treatment period, that they didn't often take work schedules into consideration when booking appointments. Once they figured out I planned to work full-time throughout treatment, they were very accommodating. If another patient arrived late for treatment, that patient was asked to come back at the end of the day because they wanted my treatment to be administered on time. They just told the late-arriving patient that working patients were not going to be penalized because another patient arrives late for therapy.

    California is an "at will" employment state. Employers can dump any employee with absolutely notice. If there are any federal protections, it would take years to litigate. As unfair as it may be, I'd try to get it in writing the time frame you can come back to work. Arguing will put them on the defensive and jeopardize your employment even more. Like I said, it might not be fair...but it's probably the way it will play out.

    I am not surprised at the waning support of the employer and employee of your situation. It's just like when you go on vacation or get the flu. Everybody is "understanding" at first. But when your ongoing absences start to impact their lives, regardless of how trivially, there is a huge backlash of resentment. Again, it is not fair, but now is the time to go out of your way to do all the extra tasks you can and work extra uncompensated hours. The more they see you are trying to make up for your absences, the more slack they will cut you.

    Thanks to you both for your replies....I'm not real sure what I'll do as far as pursuing it, but if I do find it can be considered a disability, I will point it out, not to put them on the defense, but to keep them informed. This is a small company and having money struggles anyway, so for the time being I'll finish out the few things I have currently going at work this week and leave graciously. In one sense I feel cheated, yet in another I'm looking forward to not having to worry about work while I'm going thru treatments too. Maybe I'll get a few things done around the house I've been wanting to do for years :) There's a bright side to everything.
  • maggs
    maggs Member Posts: 164
    Here's a site for the Americans with Disabilities Act: http://www.jan.wvu.edu/links/Title1Reg.htm. It gives the whole law as it has been updated in 2002! Check it out. I hope it helps! There are contacts you can call.
  • momof4
    momof4 Member Posts: 56
    you can ask for leave without pay and without the risk of loosing your job, make sure you ask your employer for the FML form(family medical leave) this form covers you or anyone in your household just get the form and have you doctor fill it out, you shouldnt have any problems> i just had to fill one out 2 weeks ago when my little one had her tonsils out and i needed to stay home with her, i didnt have anytime left at my job and was also told i couldnt take anymore time off without pay i was afraid of loosing my job til a coworker told me about the family medical leave act i had my kid doctor fill out the part that he had to and sent it in i was granted the 2 weeks (you CANNOT be refused ) hope i was of some kind of help
    love and hugs
    Mariat.
  • momof4
    momof4 Member Posts: 56
    you can ask for leave without pay and without the risk of loosing your job, make sure you ask your employer for the FML form(family medical leave) this form covers you or anyone in your household just get the form and have you doctor fill it out, you shouldnt have any problems> i just had to fill one out 2 weeks ago when my little one had her tonsils out and i needed to stay home with her, i didnt have anytime left at my job and was also told i couldnt take anymore time off without pay i was afraid of loosing my job til a coworker told me about the family medical leave act i had my kid doctor fill out the part that he had to and sent it in i was granted the 2 weeks (you CANNOT be refused ) hope i was of some kind of help
    love and hugs
    Mariat.
  • I_will_survive
    I_will_survive Member Posts: 31
    maggs said:

    Here's a site for the Americans with Disabilities Act: http://www.jan.wvu.edu/links/Title1Reg.htm. It gives the whole law as it has been updated in 2002! Check it out. I hope it helps! There are contacts you can call.

    Thanks...I've printed it off and will be reading thru it in the next days. I don't believe they mention specific disabilities tho.
  • I_will_survive
    I_will_survive Member Posts: 31
    momof4 said:

    you can ask for leave without pay and without the risk of loosing your job, make sure you ask your employer for the FML form(family medical leave) this form covers you or anyone in your household just get the form and have you doctor fill it out, you shouldnt have any problems> i just had to fill one out 2 weeks ago when my little one had her tonsils out and i needed to stay home with her, i didnt have anytime left at my job and was also told i couldnt take anymore time off without pay i was afraid of loosing my job til a coworker told me about the family medical leave act i had my kid doctor fill out the part that he had to and sent it in i was granted the 2 weeks (you CANNOT be refused ) hope i was of some kind of help
    love and hugs
    Mariat.

    Well, I don't need to ask for leave without pay as they more or less told me that is what I will be doing. I've been trying to work thru this all but I guess I'm just not here enough for them. I did discuss the Family Leave Act, actually they brought it up, so there's no problem with taking the leave. It was just a blow to be informed that I had to take a leave I guess. But all things work together for good and this will work out for the best too. Thanks for your info :)
  • hummingbyrd
    hummingbyrd Member Posts: 950 Member
    momof4 said:

    you can ask for leave without pay and without the risk of loosing your job, make sure you ask your employer for the FML form(family medical leave) this form covers you or anyone in your household just get the form and have you doctor fill it out, you shouldnt have any problems> i just had to fill one out 2 weeks ago when my little one had her tonsils out and i needed to stay home with her, i didnt have anytime left at my job and was also told i couldnt take anymore time off without pay i was afraid of loosing my job til a coworker told me about the family medical leave act i had my kid doctor fill out the part that he had to and sent it in i was granted the 2 weeks (you CANNOT be refused ) hope i was of some kind of help
    love and hugs
    Mariat.

    I consider cancer disabling as it dang near killed me, I have less stamina, more frequent episodes of 'chemobrain' and am under chronic care of this insidious disease by numerous physicians. Add to that my Parkinson's Disease and it's just too much for me to handle. I'd recommend the FMLA for now, make them take the step towards dismissing you, file unemployment and start filling out forms for social security.
    God bless. hummingbyrd
  • I_will_survive
    I_will_survive Member Posts: 31

    I consider cancer disabling as it dang near killed me, I have less stamina, more frequent episodes of 'chemobrain' and am under chronic care of this insidious disease by numerous physicians. Add to that my Parkinson's Disease and it's just too much for me to handle. I'd recommend the FMLA for now, make them take the step towards dismissing you, file unemployment and start filling out forms for social security.
    God bless. hummingbyrd

    I agree that cancer is disabiling...just wondered if anything was written down showing that cancer and/or treatment can be considered a disability. Thankfully my situation is such that the treatment is a preventative plan right now (the cancer was cut out). They have stated they will fill out whatever paperwork I want them do to collect what I can, such as unemployment...and I've checked into social security - have to be disabled for a year. Thanks for the input :) and I hope you can find something to help you feel better and give you some energy. God bless you!
  • epgnyc
    epgnyc Member Posts: 137
    This is actually a pretty interesting question. I'm Director of HR for my company and so I get involved in ADA and disability stuff all the time. I would say that cancer could be a disability, but in your case would not be. Under the ADA a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (these are things like walking, hearing, seeing speaking, breathing, etc.). Because you can get around and could do your job if they'd let you have the necessary time off, you wouldn't qualify as disabled under the ADA. However, you could probably collect short-term disability insurance if it's provided in your state and if your physician will sign the forms. We had an employee a couple of years ago with breast cancer. Unfortunately she quickly became Stage IV, could not work and was covered under our long-term disability policy as being fully disabled up until her death. As to the FMLA, I don't think you'd be protected by this because you mentioned your company is a small one. The Family Medical Leave Act only covers employees at companies of 50 or larger (I know, unfair). I hope this is of some help. I'd agree that you should just go with the flow and take the leave of absence. I wouldn't even bring up the disability issue with them, even in passing. You have enough on your plate right now without getting someone defensive. Anyway, good luck and try to enjoy the time you have away from work. Ellen
  • I_will_survive
    I_will_survive Member Posts: 31
    epgnyc said:

    This is actually a pretty interesting question. I'm Director of HR for my company and so I get involved in ADA and disability stuff all the time. I would say that cancer could be a disability, but in your case would not be. Under the ADA a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (these are things like walking, hearing, seeing speaking, breathing, etc.). Because you can get around and could do your job if they'd let you have the necessary time off, you wouldn't qualify as disabled under the ADA. However, you could probably collect short-term disability insurance if it's provided in your state and if your physician will sign the forms. We had an employee a couple of years ago with breast cancer. Unfortunately she quickly became Stage IV, could not work and was covered under our long-term disability policy as being fully disabled up until her death. As to the FMLA, I don't think you'd be protected by this because you mentioned your company is a small one. The Family Medical Leave Act only covers employees at companies of 50 or larger (I know, unfair). I hope this is of some help. I'd agree that you should just go with the flow and take the leave of absence. I wouldn't even bring up the disability issue with them, even in passing. You have enough on your plate right now without getting someone defensive. Anyway, good luck and try to enjoy the time you have away from work. Ellen

    Thank you for your reply. I had a feeling that this is the case and I could not be considered "disabled" and actually, for that I can be grateful too. I do plan to take what I can get as they are paying me thru the end of the month. I do have a small disability ins. policy that I took out years ago, it won't give me much but it'll help too. Our company carries no benefits as far as insurance, so I will pursue the unemployment also. And as far as the FMLA, if they think they need to abide by it, I'm not going to be the one to tell them otherwise :) I have already asked for something in writing as far as having a job when I'm ready to come back. Our HR person felt the request reasonable, so am waiting to see how they will write that one.
  • DeeNY711
    DeeNY711 Member Posts: 476 Member
    In New York State, all employers with the exception of municipal employers are required to carry disability insurance on their employees, and all disability related to either illness or accident is covered. One of the nurses in my internist's office went out on disability during breast cancer treatment. I was not entitled to it because I am a municipal employee, though. There are two types of disability here: state, under which you would be covered, and federal (Social Security disability) and I would not rely upon your employer to interpret what you are entitled to due to the conflict of interest involved. Ask for a disability application from Personnel.
  • blossomtime
    blossomtime Member Posts: 98
    I was given a book that is very informative that you might be interested in. It is "Be prepared" the complete financial, legal and practical guide to living with life challenging conditions. It did state that a cancer diagnosis qualified under the American Disbilities Act. But as with everything there are lots of "ins and outs". I personally feel there ought to be something you could do. I worked all thru chemo and radiation and it wasnt always easy, but as a single mom I had to keep working at full salary. My employer was very accomadating. Anyway, good book, best of luck to you.
  • maggs
    maggs Member Posts: 164

    I was given a book that is very informative that you might be interested in. It is "Be prepared" the complete financial, legal and practical guide to living with life challenging conditions. It did state that a cancer diagnosis qualified under the American Disbilities Act. But as with everything there are lots of "ins and outs". I personally feel there ought to be something you could do. I worked all thru chemo and radiation and it wasnt always easy, but as a single mom I had to keep working at full salary. My employer was very accomadating. Anyway, good book, best of luck to you.

    Thank you, Blossomtime, for your response! It is my understanding that chronic breast cancer does qualify as a disability, but at what point and under what circumstances? If your disability check is small, you could go broke before you die, so it seems better to work for as long as you can and/or are able to.
  • nanuk
    nanuk Member Posts: 1,358 Member
    maggs said:

    Here's a site for the Americans with Disabilities Act: http://www.jan.wvu.edu/links/Title1Reg.htm. It gives the whole law as it has been updated in 2002! Check it out. I hope it helps! There are contacts you can call.

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    Original Message:

    larryfitz
    04-21-2002
    11:54 PM EST RE: Long term disability & insurance [reply]

    Recently,an attorney friend of mine who is aware of my cancer asked me if I had applied for SS Disability. I said no but he encourage me to apply. SSD is his speciality. I will probably be meeting with him next week. I looked at the SSD website. Disability is defined as being unable to perform your normal work duties for at least one year. Payments start after 5 months of disability. This June will be one year since I have been able to work. You can write me off line at [email protected] if you want more info. Larry
  • nanuk
    nanuk Member Posts: 1,358 Member
    dear I will; according to another message thread on this site, Social Security defines disabled as not being able to perform your duties for one year..benefits are paid after 5 months check SSD website-http://www.ssa.gov/disability/ , and word search Social Security Disability on line for other resources. Bud