Ask LIVESTRONG: Employment Discrimination


Today on “Ask LIVESTRONG” we are discussing job discrimination and cancer. Our LIVESTRONG SurvivorCare Navigation Coordinator, Sarah Gomez, took questions from our audience about employment issues and below are answers to those questions.

Can my employer drop my insurance after I find out I have cancer?
NO, an employer can not drop you from insurance if you are still an active employee. Under ERISA laws, there is no insurance discrimination through group policies. Employees with any diagnosis or pre-existing diagnosis must be offered the same plan as other eligible employees with the same coverage, same premiums, etc.

Do I have the right to take time off work if I’m receiving treatment?
If an individual is receiving treatment and needs time off, they will need to utilize their paid time off, sick time or file for Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period. An eligible employee is an employee who has been employed for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours. You are only an eligible employee if your employer employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the worksite.

Can I be fired from a job if they find out I have cancer?
Individuals cannot be fired due to a diagnosis. If an individual feels that their termination was due to a diagnosis and they can provide detailed information concerning this, they should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to file a complaint.
Patients also need to remember that many states are considered “at will” states. This means, any hiring is presumed to be “at will”; that is, the employer is free to discharge individuals “for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all,”

Can I be denied a job after the would-be employer finds out I have had cancer?
This would be considered discrimination, so the employer would have to outright tell you that you are no longer eligible for the position due to a diagnosis. If this is stated and can be presented, the individual needs to immediately contact the EEOC to file a complaint.

When interviewing for employment, an individual does not have to disclose any medical history unless the individual is requesting a reasonable accommodation in order to perform the necessary duties of the job.

For more information about employment discrimination during and after cancer, please call LIVESTRONG SurvivorCare at 1-866-673-7205 or fill out our online intake form.


  1. Bill Deal says:

    My wife was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma in January. She has received two chemo sessions and is scheduled for 2-4 more. She is being covered by my insurance at this time and it is performing very well. I will be retiring in May (from a teaching position) and have the option of continuing the insurance policy but will be paying for it myself. My question is: Can they deny coverage because of her diagnosis?

    1. Bill-

      Thats a good question. Give us a call so we can talk in more detail. Call 1-866-673-7205 and ask for Sarah. We have an insurance case worker that can walk you through your options.

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