According to a recent study published in the Journal of Oncology, employees who have cancer-based disabilities continue to be subject to workplace discrimination. The authors of the study sought to investigate the prevalence of cancer-based workplace discrimination claims, and they concluded that “discrimination allegations in those with a history of cancer persisted” despite federal laws designed to prevent discrimination on the job. What else should you know about cancer-based disabilities and employment discrimination in New York?
Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) was signed into law, and it took effect in early 2009. As a fact sheet from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains, among other new protections, the ADAAA “emphasizes that the definition of disability should be construed in favor of broad coverage of individuals to the maximum extent permitted by the terms of the ADA.”
Ultimately the ADAAA was intended to make it easier for an employee with a disability to establish that she has a disability under the ADA such that she is entitled to certain protections at work. In the Amendments, the basic definition of a disability outlined in the original Americans with Disability Act of 1990 (ADA) remained in place—that a disability is “an impairment that substantially limits one or more life activities, a record or such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.” What changed with the ADAAA, then? In brief, it altered interpretation of the language through which a disability is defined.
In terms of cancer-based disability, some of the relevant changes to the ADA include the following:
- Employers must recognize “major life activities,” which are impaired by a disability, as activities that include activities such as reading and communicating, as well as major bodily functions such as the function of the immune system or normal cell growth; and
- Impairment that is episodic or in remission is still a disability under the law if it would result in a substantial limitation of a major life activity when it is active or not in remission.
Cancer-Based Disability Discrimination Persists
One of the aims of the recent study was to determine whether the amendments had a substantial impact on the rate of cancer-based disability discrimination in the workplace. They determined that, in large part, the amendments have not had an obvious impact on this type of discrimination, which persists in the workplace. Some conclusions from the study include the following:
- Employees with a cancer history have continued to file ADA claims alleging disability discrimination at the same rate as—or in some cases more frequently than—before the Amendments took effect; and
- Cancer-based disability discrimination allegations in hiring, reasonable accommodation, and termination have not changed substantially between the period before the Amendments took effect and afterward.
The researchers did suggest that the amendments have resulted in more employees who have been subject to discrimination coming forward with allegations. However, there is a need to do more to prevent workplace discrimination against employees with a history of cancer.
Contact a New York Employment Discrimination Attorney
If you have questions about cancer-based disability discrimination, an employment discrimination attorney in New York can speak with you today. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar for more information.