Our 24/7 cancer helpline provides information and answers for people dealing with cancer. We can connect you with trained cancer information specialists who will answer questions about a cancer diagnosis and provide guidance and a compassionate ear.
Our highly trained specialists are available 24/7 via phone and on weekdays can assist through video calls and online chat. We connect patients, caregivers, and family members with essential services and resources at every step of their cancer journey. Ask us how you can get involved and support the fight against cancer. Some of the topics we can assist with include:
For medical questions, we encourage you to review our information with your doctor.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a law that helps protect the civil rights of people with disabilities. It can help people with disabilities have equal opportunities in:
Disclaimer: The American Cancer Society does not offer legal advice. This information is intended to provide general background in this area of the law.
People with cancer can have long-term disabilities that make it hard to work or get around. The ADA is intended to make it possible for people who can do the essential parts of their job to go back to work or keep working during and after cancer treatment. Even when a person with cancer doesn’t have a disability, they may be thought of as being disabled.
This can increase the chance for discrimination at work. The ADA covers this.
The ADA can help people who might have trouble getting into buildings and other places meant to be used by the public. The ADA can also help people with hearing and speech problems use phone and electronic communications.
To find out if the ADA might help you, you’ll want to know if it applies to your condition, your employer, and public accommodations, as discussed here.
The Americans with Disabilities Act may apply to you if:
Some of the usual activities covered by ADA include
Cancer can often be considered a disability because of the changes caused by cancer and cancer treatment. These changes may involve the immune system, cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, brain and nervous system, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive systems. These changes can affect physical and mental wellness.
The ADA can help protect you when cancer prevents or makes it very hard for you to do everyday tasks. Some tasks that may be affected include household chores, bathing, and brushing your teeth. The ADA protects you if you currently have cancer or have had it in the past, even if you are doing well now.
People who have or have had cancer can also face job discrimination. The ADA can help people who face discrimination from current or potential employers.
The law applies to employers with 15 or more employees:
US (federal) government employees are not covered under the ADA. But they are protected by a different law. You can learn more about protections for federal employees on the EEOC website.
Here are a couple of key points about how the ADA applies to you at work.
Although the ADA defines the term disability, it does not include a list of conditions that are always covered as disabilities. Each case must be reviewed to see if the person meets the criteria..
If you have a disability and are qualified for a job, the ADA does not allow most employers to discriminate in:
An employer cannot take action against you because you ask for your rights under the ADA. You are also protected if you are discriminated against because of family, business, social, or other type of relationship with a person who has a disability. For instance, this means an employer cannot discriminate against you because your spouse or child has cancer.
Still, your job is not completely protected. You can still be laid off or fired for legitimate business reasons. For instance, you would not be protected during downsizing.
If you have a disability, you must be able to perform the required functions of a job to be protected. If you are not able to perform these duties, an employer can refuse to hire you.
And you must meet the job requirements such as education, experience, skills, or licenses. Employers do not have to lower their job standards for someone with a disability.
You also must be able to perform the required job functions of the on your own or with reasonable accommodation.
Reasonable accommodations are ways employers make adjustments to a job to allow an employee with a disability to perform required job functions. This can happen before a person is hired or after they are in a job.
Examples of reasonable accommodations may include:
An employer must accommodate a qualified applicant or employee with a disability unless the employer can show that making the accommodation would be very hard or expensive.
When you apply for a job, employers are not allowed to ask:
They can ask you about your ability to perform certain job tasks. An employer can ask you to describe or show them how, with or without reasonable accommodation, you will do the job.
If you are required to have a medical exam as part of a job application, an employer cannot reject you because of information a medical exam reveals unless the reasons for rejection are related to the job and necessary to conduct the employer’s business. The results of all medical exams must be kept confidential. Medical files must be kept separate from work or personnel files.
You are not required to tell an employer that you have or had cancer or another disability when you apply for a job. But employers only have to provide reasonable accommodation if they know about a disability. And you are the person who must tell the employer that an accommodation is needed.
No. There are some options built into the reasonable accommodation requirement under the ADA. For example, employers do not have to:
If you think you have been discriminated against at work because of a disability, you can file a complaint with an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) field office located in certain cities throughout the United States. If you work for a state or local government, the process is the same as for a private employer. You can contact the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Along with the American Cancer Society, other sources of information and support are listed here. Some have more specific information about ADA requirements affecting employment.
Job Accommodation Network
Toll-free number: 1-800-526-7234
This is a free consulting service of the US Department of Labor that gives information on the ADA, your rights, how to talk to an employer, and how to ask for accommodations.
US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Toll-free number: 1-800-669-4000
Tells you how to find EEOC offices in your area and how to file charges of workplace discrimination; has information on federal equal employment opportunity regulations, practices, and policies; offers publications such as Questions and Answers About Cancer in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has special information for people with cancer. It’s on the EEOC website at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/cancer.cfm
Americans with Disabilities Act Technical Assistance – US Department of Justice
Toll-free number: 1-800-514-0301
Specialists answer questions about the ADA and the programs, services, and activities of employers as well as state and local governments. The website has a list of free booklets and publications you can order or read online, many of which are available in other languages.
For more specific information about accessibility and transportation services for people with disabilities
Federal Communications Commission
Toll-free number: 1-888-225-5322
Website : www.fcc.gov
For TRS (Telecommunications Relay Services, which allow people with hearing or speech disabilities to place and receive phone calls) questions and fact sheets; also offers technical assistance on ADA telephone service requirements
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
Toll-free number: 1-800-638-8255
Provides information and support so that all people with speech, language, and hearing disorders have access to quality services to help them communicate
Federal Transit Administration
Toll-free number: 1-888-446-4511 (FTA ADA Assistance Line, voice/relay)
For problems with public transportation only; to get information or file a complaint
National Aging and Disability Transportation Center
Toll-free number: 1-800-659-6428
Has information about services to improve access to transportation for older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers.s
United States Access Board
Toll-free number: 1-800-872-2253
Has specific information on accessibility requirements for people with disabilities. The Board develops and maintains design criteria for the built environment, transit vehicles, telecommunications equipment, and for electronic and information technology
*Inclusion on this list does not imply endorsement by the American Cancer Society.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). ADA: The law. Eeoc.org. Accessed at https://www.eeoc.gov/history/eeoc-history-law on September 21, 2023.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Facts about the Americans with Disabilities Act. Eeoc.org. Accessed at https://www.eeoc.gov/sites/default/files/migrated_files/facts/fs-ada.pdf on September 21, 2023.
US Department of Justice: Civil Rights Division. A Guide to Disability Rights Laws. Ada.gov. Accessed at www.ada.gov/cguide.htm on September 21, 2023.
US Department of Justice: Civil Rights Division. Guidance & Resource Materials. Ada.gov. Accessed at https://www.ada.gov/resources/on September 21, 2023.
Last Revised: September 30, 2023