Can You Be Fired For Having Cancer?

Updated: Jan 27

Employment Rights For Cancer Patients And Survivors

California has one of the most inclusive worker protection laws. For example, suppose you are a patient, survivor, or caregiver of someone with cancer. In that case, you are entitled to protections under California Employment Laws.


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For cancer survivors and their caregivers, working typically satisfies a fundamental financial and emotional need. Employment can give a source of support, feelings of productivity, and even normalcy and provide income and crucial benefits such as health insurance. On the other hand, cancer can make it challenging to find and keep a job and make it difficult to pay bills and receive proper insurance.


While many employers support their employees after a cancer diagnosis, some employers may mistreat cancer survivors and caregivers due to antiquated personnel policies or a uniformed or misled supervisor. Dismissal, failure to hire, demotion, denial of well-deserved promotions, denial of benefits, unfavorable location and department transfers, and coworker animosity are all challenges that some survivors face.

Cancer survivors and their caregivers can best protect themselves from discrimination in the workplace by learning how to fight for their rights.


Laws Against Discrimination in the Workplace


According to federal and state rules, as long as you are suitable for the job, your boss can't treat you differently because of your history of cancer. However, these laws may only protect you if you meet the following criteria:

  1. You are qualified for the work (you have the required skills, experience, and education) and can perform the job's fundamental functions.

  2. Because of your diagnosis or history of cancer, your employer handled you differently than other employees in job-related activities.

  3. Your cancer may have significantly reduced your capacity to undertake everyday duties at one point, or your employer may have assumed that your cancer had done so.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids private businesses (with at least 15 employees), employment agencies, and labor unions from discriminating against people who have or have had cancer. Furthermore, every state has a statute that governs disability-based workplace discrimination to some extent.


Some laws expressly ban discrimination based on cancer, whereas others have never been applied to cancer patients.

According to federal and most state regulations, employers have the right to know only if you can do the job when you apply for it. Therefore, unless you have a visible disability that the employer believes impairs your current ability to perform the job, a potential employer may not inquire about your medical history.


If things are still unclear to you, get a referral from one of our prescreened Los Angeles Employment Lawyers to help you nail down the specifics of your case.


Here are a few more instances where an employer may inquire about your health:

  • An employer can ask further questions about your health after you've been offered a job, but only if all (similarly situated) employees are asked the same questions.

  • When you request reasonable accommodations. These are accommodations that disabled employees can request— such as a change in work schedule, use of technology, change in the workplace, or even a policy change—that an employer makes to help you do your work tasks during or after cancer treatment.

  • If you require time off for treatment, for example, your employer may be able to accommodate you by allowing you to work flexible hours until your treatment is completed.

  • However, an employer is not required to make modifications that would cause them excessive difficulty.

In some cases, cancer survivors' caregivers may be protected from discrimination. For example, the ADA forbids discrimination based on a person's relationship or association with a disabled person.


Employers may not expect your job performance to be impacted by your need to care for a cancer-stricken family member. Employers may also not treat you any differently because they think you'll take a lot of time off to care for your cancer-stricken spouse.

While carers have the right to be protected from discrimination at employment, they do not have the right to reasonable accommodations.


Medical And Family Leave Rights In California

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal legislation that requires employers to provide u