Day to Day Living: Breast cancer and the workplace



You may find that insurance considerations play an important role in your employment options. Many women who have had breast cancer express frustration about their inability to seek new jobs because many insurance companies refuse to insure individuals with a “pre-existing condition.” This can be particularly frustrating at a time when you may want to explore new directions in your life. However, a bill passed in 1997 attempts to address this issue. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA or the Kennedy/Kassebaum law) allows people who have been enrolled in a group health plan for 12 months to be covered by a new group health plan with no exclusions for pre-existing conditions.

Though discrimination against people with cancer is illegal, you may understandably feel uneasy about disclosing your medical history to a prospective or new employer. The rights of people with cancer, summarized below, are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act:

  • An employer may not require any pre-employment medical examinations or ask for any medical history, either in a job interview or on an application form.
  • After a job has been offered, an employer can make medical inquiries or require a medical examination, if this is a standard procedure for all employees. A job offer cannot be withdrawn as a result of the medical inquiry, unless the problem will interfere with the employee’s ability to perform her job.
  • An employer must also provide “reasonable accommodations” to the physical limitations or needs of the employee, such as modifying a work schedule or permitting unpaid leaves for necessary treatment. These obligations, however, must be balanced with the employer’s needs for conducting business.

To find out more about your rights and the responsibilities of employers, or to report any problems or discrimination you experience, contact your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here