Cancer & Employment: International Series – China

Navigating employment after a cancer diagnosis is a challenges issue for many employees triage-cancer-blog-chinabecause of the balance between money, time, and abilities.  In the US, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides legal protection against employment discrimination and access to reasonable accommodations.

While the ADA is more than 16 years old, many employers in the US do not comply with the law.  A similar situation exists in China, as exemplified by the recent death of a Chinese teacher battling cancer.

After teaching at the Lanzhou Jiaotong University’s Bowen College for two years, 32-year-old English teacher Liu Lingli was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Instead of receiving medical accommodations from the university, however, Ms. Liu was fired for absenteeism.

Chinese law prohibits employers from firing employees while on medical leave. But according to legal experts, many firms don’t abide by this rule, ultimately leaving numerous individuals sick and unemployed. And this unfortunate event is exactly what happened with Ms. Liu, for her firing was indicative of the disability stigma looming within modern Chinese society.

Aware that this was a clear violation of the labor law, Ms. Liu filed a lawsuit against the university shortly after her dismissal. She eventually won the lawsuit, consequently ordering Lanzhou University to restore her employment. The school, however, did not comply and appealed the decision. The school later lost the appeal.

Despite the court’s siding with Ms. Liu, she was drowning in medical debt. The chemotherapy and other treatments totaled more than $60,000, an amount far above what her father, who also has cancer, and mother could afford.

As a result, she began to sell clothes on the streets to make ends meet. Nie Ting, a tour agency employee who befriended Ms. Liu outside a shopping mall, expressed her admiration for her friend’s willpower to sell clothes even after she began using a wheelchair. “She was a strong woman,” said Ms. Ting.

Ms. Liu kept her dismissal private because, according to her friends, she felt humiliated. The reason the case went public was because the university later extended their deepest apologies and agreed to pay the wages they had previously denied her after her death. The Chinese news site The Paper reported that Lanzhou University would pay Ms. Liu’s family nearly $11,000, $2,200 of the payment to cover the cost of her funeral, and that it had suspended the human resources director where Ms. Liu was working.

Hopefully, Ms. Liu’s story has, and will continue to, positively impact the responses of Chinese employers to their employees with serious medical conditions.

Medical Certification – Don’t Let It Disclose For You

If you choose to keep completely mum about your cancer diagnosis at work, you’ll be in triage-cancer-blog-medical-certificationgood company.  Grover Cleveland had a surgery for oral cancer in 1893, while serving as President of the United States, and nobody heard anything about it until 1917. President Woodrow Wilson had a serious stroke in 1919, and the country was basically run by First Lady Edith Wilson for the next two years. JFK flat out denied having Addison’s disease during his 1960 bid for the White House. Just like you, presidential candidates have no legal obligation to tell their employers (their constituents) about their medical health.

Generally, while you have no obligation to disclose, there are some instances where you might find it beneficial to share some information about your medical condition with an employer or potential employer. This is a very personal choice. The important thing to realize is that you have a choice. Triage Cancer participated in a free webinar about disclosure, privacy, and online brand.

There are also some instances where you could inadvertently stumble into a disclosure. For instance, if you want to use the ADA, or the Americans with Disabilities Act to request a reasonable accommodation at work, your employer will likely ask you to have your doctor fill out a medical certification form. Employers can create their own medical certification forms and can ask you about your diagnosis.  If you are not interested in sharing a cancer diagnosis with your employer, you only need to share enough medical information to show that you are eligible for the reasonable accommodation that you are asking for.  So you could talk about side effects that you are experiencing without talking about a cancer diagnosis.  But it is important to talk with your health care team about your disclosure decisions, before you ask them to complete your form.

Another law you might want to use is the FMLA, or Family and Medical Leave Act.  This law allows to take time off, unpaid, without the fear of losing your job. This law also allows an employer to ask for a medical certification form to be filled out by a member of your health care team. Even though the U.S. Department of Labor has created a model form for employers to use, some employers create their own forms and may ask for more information than they are entitled to have.

To help you navigate these decisions, Triage Cancer has some created some new, informative Quick Guides:

Quick Guide to Disclosure, Privacy, & Medical Certification Forms

Extended Quick Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

As always, knowledge is power, so get informed.

Join us in Chicago, on Friday, April 8th

chicago-theatre-890350_640For the third year in a row, Cancer and Careers will travel to the Windy City to host a free, daylong event focused on the challenges working people with cancer face in their efforts to balance treatment/recovery and employment.
 
Cancer and Careers’ Chief Mission Officer Rebecca Nellis will co-present with Triage Cancer’s Chief Operating Officer, Monica Bryant to provide patients, survivors, healthcare professionals, caregivers, and employers the information and tools they need to address important issues.  Among the topics that will be covered: disclosure, privacy & online brand; working through treatment and returning to work, including legal rights; managing finances; and health insurance options. In addition to the in-person presentations, attendees will be given helpful materials – including guides, workbooks & one-sheets – to take with them, for easy reference.
 
The Conference will be held at the Hotel Chicago Downtown and begins with breakfast at 8:00 AM. Lunch and parking are provided as well. To register, go to www.cancerandcareers.org/en/midwest. We hope to see you there!
 
If you’re unable to join us in April, we’ll be partnering with Triage Cancer again – this time in NYC – for Cancer and Careers’ annual National Conference on Work & Cancer, on June 17th. Triage Cancer has been an integral partner on this, CAC’s biggest event, since it launched six years ago. So we’re excited to have them involved again. Both Joanna Morales, Triage Cancer’s CEO, and Monica Bryant, will be there to present. For information and to register for the National Conference, go to www.cancerandcareers.org/conference. Travel scholarships are available for the National Conference; applications are due by April 15th.
 
If you’re on the West Coast, save the date of Saturday, October 15, 2016, when we’ll host our second West Coast Conference, in Los Angeles. Again, Triage Cancer will be there! Details and registration will be available at the end of March, at www.cancerandcareers.org/en/westcoast.

West Coast Conference on Work & Cancer

Triage Cancer is excited to partner with Cancer and Careers for the first-ever West Coast Conference on Work & Cancer, next Friday, November 13th!

This free, daylong event explores the challenges of balancing treatment and recovery withWest Coast Conference Flyer 2015 employment and is open to patients, survivors, healthcare professionals* and anyone else touched by cancer.

Our CEO, Joanna Morales, and Rebecca Nellis, chief mission officer of Cancer and Careers will present on topics including:

  • Disclosure
  • Working through treatment
  • Health insurance options
  • Legal issues
  • Job-search
  • …and more!

Below are more details about the event. Space is filling up, so be sure to register today!

Date: Friday, November 13, 2015
Time: 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM (breakfast & lunch provided)
Location: The Center at Cathedral Plaza, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles (Free parking)

Website for more information: www.cancerandcareers.org/en/community/events/westcoast-conference

*Free CEUs are available for oncology nurses and social workers.

If you’re in the Midwest, save the date for our Midwest Conference on Work & Cancer on Friday, April 8th in Chicago!

The ADA turns 25!

On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush, signed into law the Americans Birthdaywith Disabilities Act (ADA), the world’s first comprehensive civil rights law for people with disabilities.

The ADA is a federal law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination, offers equality opportunities is different facets of life, and attempts to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Despite turning 25 years old today, the ADA is a law that many people are not familiar with at all, or are only aware of the public accessibility provisions, such as accessible parking spots, or ensuring that buildings have ramps.

However, the ADA covers much more. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment (Title I), in public services (Title II), in public accommodations (Title III) and in telecommunications (Title IV).

In addition, many people diagnosed with cancer don’t realize that they might be protected under the ADA. Every law and program has a different definition of disability, so it is important not to make any assumptions about whether or not you qualify for these protections and benefits.

Check out our Quick Guide to the ADA, to learn the basics about Title I of the ADA and how it provides people with disabilities protection from discrimination and access to reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

For more information about how the ADA protects individuals with cancer in the workplace, visit: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/cancer.cfm.

For information about how you can use reasonable accommodations to work through treatment or return to work, read our blogs:

Succeeding in the Workplace After a Cancer Diagnosis

How to Negotiate Reasonable Accommodations

Happy Birthday, ADA!