female with cancer interviewing at a company

Disability discrimination based on cancer is illegal in New York City and New York State. Nonetheless, New Yorkers who’ve received a cancer diagnosis often experience discrimination in the workplace. Sometimes, employers assume that individuals with a cancer diagnosis cannot continue working. Employers may also worry that employees with a cancer diagnosis will not come to work. This false assumption may lead them to refuse to hire an applicant with cancer or lay off an employee after they receive a cancer diagnosis. Employees who’ve received a cancer diagnosis are entitled to reasonable accommodation for their cancer. Likewise, employers cannot subject employees to disability discrimination based on cancer.

Our New York City Disability Lawyers Can Help

If you’re facing a cancer diagnosis, we understand how scary it is to fear for your future. Medical bills often mount up while cancer patients are seeking treatment. Losing one’s employment can be a devastating blow for an employee trying to recover from cancer. Unfortunately, many New York City employers refuse to comply with federal and state anti-discrimination laws. If you have experienced disability discrimination based on cancer, you may have a legal claim to compensation. Contact Lipsky Lowe LLP as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can help you fight for your rights. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act Protects Employees with Cancer

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that protects individuals with disabilities. State and local agencies, labor organizations, employment agencies, and private employers have a legal duty not to discriminate against employees with cancer. Additionally, employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with a real or perceived disability. The ADA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. 

Does Cancer Qualify as a Long-Term Disability?

A cancer diagnosis is not always a disability under the terms of the ADA. The ADA protects employees with long-term disabilities that make it difficult for them to get around or to work. The ADA defines a disability as the following:

  • Having a physical or mental problem that substantially limits one or more major life activities
  • A record of having such a disability in the past
  • Other people perceive that you have a disability, even if you don’t have one

Major activities include caring for yourself, seeing, hearing, walking, standing, lifting, bending, thinking, communicating, and working. On January 1, 2009, Congress passed an amendment to the ADA that expands the definition of disabilities to include disabilities that negatively affect the following:

  • Functions of the immune system 
  • Cell growth
  • Digestive system
  • Bowels
  • Bladder
  • Brain 
  • Reproductive system
  • Endocrine system
  • Circulatory system
  • Respiratory system
  • Nervous system

Cancer often affects one or more of the bodily functions noted above. Thus, the recent amendments to the ADA make it easier for an individual with a cancer diagnosis to receive protection under the ADA. When your cancer affects a bodily function and prevents you or makes it difficult for you to do everyday tasks, you will likely qualify for protection under the ADA. 

Not all cancers qualify, however. Your cancer must meet the definition of permanent or long-term disability under the ADA. Once your cancer qualifies you for protection under the ADA, the ADA will continue to protect you, even if you are doing better now. 

What Kind of DIscrimination Based on Cancer Does the ADA Prohibit?

Employers cannot discriminate against employees or future employees with a qualifying disability per the ADA. If your cancer qualifies as a disability under the ADA, employers may not discriminate in any of the following employment practices:

  • Recruiting and advertising 
  • Job training and hiring
  • Job assignments
  • Tenure
  • Promotions
  • Benefits
  • Pay
  • Taking leave time
  • Laying off an employee
  • All other activities related to employment
  • Determining the privileges and conditions of employment 

New York City Human Rights Law Protection from Cancer-Based Discrimination 

New York City’s Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) is one of the most serious prohibitions of anti-discrimination in the country. The provisions in the New York City Human Rights Law are far stronger than the federal ADA and apply to all businesses with four or more employees. The NYCHRL prohibits employers from unlawfully discriminating against employees with disabilities. 

The NYCHRL also requires that housing providers and employers offer modifications and accommodations in their policies to those with disabilities. Business owners and employers must cover the financial cost of the accommodation or modification. Employers do not need to lower their quantity or quality standards to make accommodations. Examples of reasonable accommodations for employees with cancer include the following:

  • Job restructuring
  • Making existing facilities more readily useable and accessible by an employee
  • Providing interpreters or qualified readers
  • Adjusting and modifying training materials, policies, or examinations
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment
  • Reassignment to open positions
  • Modification of unpaid leave or work schedules 

Filing a Cancer Discrimination Complaint in New York City

New Yorkers who have faced unlawful disability discrimination based on cancer have a right to file a complaint in court. You do not have to, first, file an administrative charge with any agency. You can go straight to court and fight for your rights.

Remedies Available in New York City Cancer Discrimination Cases

Successful claimants can recover the following remedies for cancer-based discrimination:

  • Reinstatement of the employee to an employment position
  • Hiring the employee 
  • Compensating the employee for lost wages
  • Requiring the employer to make accommodations
  • Compensate the employer for emotional distress-based damages. These damages, depending on the case, can exceed $200,000
  • Order the employer to sell or rent a housing unit to the individual with cancer

Our Anti-Discrimination Lawyers Can Help You

To succeed in an anti-discrimination case for your cancer, you’ll need to prove that your cancer is a disability per the ADA or the NYCHRL. Then, you’ll need to show that you can perform the basic work functions of the job and that your employer can make reasonable accommodations. You need an employment lawyer with extensive experience when filing an anti-discrimination lawsuit or claim. Contact the skilled employment law firm of Lipsky Lowe LLP to schedule your initial consultation.