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Cancer survivors deserve accommodations

A diagnosis of cancer is never a pleasant surprise. That said, just because someone is diagnosed with one of the many forms of the disease doesn't necessarily mean they have been given a death sentence. The American Cancer Society observes that the survival rate among cancer patients is a great deal higher than it used to be just 30 years ago -- as much as 49 percent higher.

What that means in most cases is that employee cancer survivors in Texas and the rest of the country not only will return to work, but that they will want to. And if employers, including the federal government, fail to provide appropriate accommodations to make that happen, they may need to be pressed to do the right thing. An attorney can help.

To help frame what individual survivors and their families should be able to expect from employers and what employers should be prepared to provide, here are some thoughts from Safety and Health magazine.

To begin with, it is important to emphasize that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined that those with cancer in remission are deemed eligible for coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means employers must make accommodations for them in the workplace as long as the changes don't create undue hardship.

The objective is to either assist the worker remain at work while undergoing treatment or help them return to normal afterward. But normal is something of a relative term. Treatments can leave the patient fatigued. Workers may be unable to perform up to the level they were at before the diagnosis, even if they want to. So allowing them more frequent breaks, to work from home or more flexible hours might be called for.

Indeed, experts say the notion of flexibility is something that both employers and employees would do well to adopt generally. Policies may be well set for dealing with known conditions like back issues and repetitive stress injuries. But cancer accommodation can require a plan customized to the individual.

Whatever your situation may be, you need to know what your options are in order to fight for them.

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