Employer Says I Shouldn’t Work During Treatment

Last Modified: September 17, 2010


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

I am 32 years old and was diagnosed with rectal cancer. I am going to need surgery, radiation, and chemo. My chemo has to be given 24 hours a day by a pump that I wear like a fanny pack. I am a flight attendant for a major airline and they are saying that they would prefer I did not fly with the pump. I want to keep as normal a life as possible during these six weeks and save my sick time for the surgery recovery period. My doc thinks I can physically work - Do I have any recourse?


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

Could you be transferred to a temporary job, with similar pay and benefits, for 6 weeks?

If you need the pump pack as a reasonable accommodation to your disability, to prevent that, your employer would have to show it would present an undue hardship. What, if any, problems would the pump pack pose for the airline? Would you be able to sit down, walk around, bend over, demonstrate life jackets and oxygen masks, do all those things you do, with the pump pack on? Would it impact co-workers? Passengers? Any FAA rules/regs that might apply? Are you unionized? If so, anything in the collective bargaining agreement concerning accommodating disabled employees?

Your recourse may be an internal disability discrimination complaint process, filing a complaint with a state fair employment practices agency or filing a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If push comes to shove, you may want to talk with an attorney with experience in employment law.

Once again, check out: http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/cancer.html. You can have a chat with: https://www.disabilityrightslegalcenter.org/about/cancerlegalresource.cfm

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

Frequently Asked Questions