How the ADA Law Protects Patients at Work

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations that allow workers with disabilities to function properly on the job. Under the ADA, a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.” Diagnosis of a serious medical condition would qualify one for disability benefits, even when future recovery is possible. Individuals with a disability may inform the employer that an accommodation is necessary at any point during their employment.

Reasonable accommodations must be intended to help the employee do his or her job, and cannot be refused unless the accommodation causes undue hardship, difficulty or burdening expense for the employer. Employers are not required to eliminate a fundamental duty of a position in order to avoid the need to make an accommodation, nor penalize an employee for requesting a modification.

Some examples of reasonable accommodations include:

  • Modifications that ensure that the workplace is physically accessible
  • Allowance for periodic breaks in a private area to take medication
  • A modified work schedule, shift change, or, if possible, the ability to telecommute
  • Allowance of leave for doctors’ appointments and/or to recuperate from treatment

If you have used the allotted time provided under FMLA leave, and you are not yet ready to return to work,you can consider asking for extended leave as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

Additional provisions for cancer patients can be found at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website:

The Federal Rehabilitation Act also protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability as outlined in the ADA. This law applies to employees of the federal government as well as to organizations and employers who receive financial assistance from any federal department or agency.

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