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The journey cancer patients face is arduous and frightening – from diagnosis to treatment, to the often slow process of recovery, the emotional aftermath, and the fear of recurrence. Patients and survivors on this journey don't need the added stress and financial hardship of being wrongfully fired for having cancer.
If you have been discriminated against for having cancer, there are options to address the situation, recover damages for lost wages, hardship, and medical costs, and ensure that the employer has addressed the problem to prevent the same thing from happening to others.
1. Research your rights and your options.
Information is your best friend. Look for reputable sources of relevant information to cite and rely on. The American Cancer Society, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Department of Justice's Americans With Disabilities Act page are all good places to start.
Be aware that there is a time limit for filing a charge with the EEOC.
2. Write down your remaining questions, then call an expert.
The EEOC offers hotlines to assist with filing charges, handling your existing case, and process for Federal employees (which is different). The Department of Justice offers an ADA information line, and The American Cancer Society offers a national outreach line and live chat.
3. Gather your materials; then take action.
Call the nearest EEOC office to file your complaint. You can file by mail (though calling first for clear assistance might be helpful), or by making an appointment at an EEOC office. According to the EEOC website, you can bring anyone you want to the appointment. Read the EEOC webpage about filing a complaint and the page about the complaint process for complete details. The Department of Justice also has an ADA Mediation Program if you prefer mediation to filing a direct complaint.
The good news is, if addressed promptly with the right authorities, recognition and restitution are possible for those who were wrongfully fired. And if you're dealing with cancer while working now, there are strategies you can employ to help ensure fair treatment.
In either case, take the time to assess your situation and stand up for yourself. It takes great courage and strength to battle cancer. The world needs to understand and respect that.