The EEOC Is Focused On The ADA Rights Of Employees With Cancer, Especially Ones With Reasonable Accommodation Issues

We are blogging on Mark Oberti’s paper on the “5 Things Employers And Employees Need To Know About Cancer In The Workplace

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is the federal government agency that investigates alleged violations of the ADA, issues guidance and regulations on the ADA, and has the authority to sue employers that it believes have violated the ADA. Since the the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) took effect in 2009, the EEOC has become very focused on cancer rights under the ADA, and particularly on employer’s obligations to make reasonable accommodations for the known disability-related workplace limitations of cancer victims.

For example, shortly after the ADAAA was passed, the EEOC brought suit in E.E.O.C. v. Journal Disposition Corp., NO. 1:10-CV-886, 2011 WL 5118735, (W.D. Mich. Oct. 27, 2011). There, the EEOC alleged that the employer violated the ADA when it refused to permit the cancer-stricken employee to work four hours a day, five days a week, every other week, for some period of time after his chemotherapy treatments ended. The employer moved to throw the case out without a trial, but the court refused to do so, instead finding that “[w]hether the accommodation proposed by Nelson was objectively reasonable is a question of fact for a jury.” Id. at *4.

Last year, the EEOC issued a guidance memorandum entitled “Questions & Answers about Cancer in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).” The guidance is here. In the guidance, the EEOC explains that, “[a]n employer must provide a reasonable accommodation that is needed because of the limitations caused by the cancer itself, the side effects of medication or treatment for the cancer, or both. For example, an employer may have to accommodate an employee who is unable to work while she is undergoing chemotherapy or who has depression as a result of cancer, the treatment for it, or both.” The EEOC’s guidance is helpful to both employers and employees confronting cancer in the workplace.

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