Telling a Prospective Employer About Cancer

Last Modified: September 17, 2010


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I am graduating college this December and starting to job hunt. I finished breast cancer treatment in January. What are my rights or what do I have to tell prospective employers about my cancer or what can they ask?


Rodney N. Warner, JD, Staff Attorney at The Legal Clinic for the Disabled, responds:

You don’t have to tell prospective employers anything about your cancer. It shouldn’t be relevant to the job. They shouldn’t ask anything about your health or health history, only ask if you’re able to do the job (with or without reasonable accommodation).

Rebecca Nellis, Director of Programs at Cancer and Careers, responds:

Legally, you are not required to tell a prospective (or current employer) about your cancer unless you are requesting a reasonable accommodation and legally they can’t ask you about cancer. I will leave the specifics of the law beyond that to the lawyer on our panel and say from a practical perspective that unless you have residual issues that will impede your work or that there is some other reason why cancer might present itself in your job search process that you simply want to proceed like all of your peers who are looking for work in this challenging economy. Focus on your skills, unique experiences and what you can bring to the job. Cancer is possibly the most primary thing in your mind but it definitely isn’t for anyone else you might encounter on this search. They will just see you as the bright, motivated young person you are. We have a great battery of job search tools to help you organize and prepare for the process, here: and we have professional career coaches who answer specific questions online here:

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series, Issues Facing Young Adults After Cancer. View the entire transcript.

Check out this link, by the federal agency that enforces the ADA….

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