Fired for poor perfomance during treatment?


Question from SusanK: I finished radiation 4 weeks ago (no chemo, no drugs). I have been exhausted and forgetful at work, not functioning at my usual level. My boss summoned me for a lecture on my poor performance. I have 3 years with the company and stellar reviews. I took about 8 days off in 3 months for surgery and radiation. Can she really dump me for what I agree is poor performance? What should I do?
Answers - Barbara Hoffman State and federal laws prohibit discrimination based on disability. Most cancer survivors would be covered under that definition. In your case, it sounds like you would be covered. Employers, however, can fire you for failure to complete essential job duties. However, under federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which covers employers with at least 15 employees, and many similar state laws, an employer is required to give employees a reasonable accommodation for such issues related to treatment, such as fatigue or difficulty concentrating. So you should propose something at work that could address the issues you're experiencing, and if the accommodation is not unduly expensive or disruptive, an employer covered by one of these laws would be obligated to provide it. If you think you could complete your job function by possibly needing a break in the middle of the day to regain energy, that may be one type of reasonable accommodation.
Ruth Oratz, M.D., F.A.C.P. You reported that you only had radiation and no chemotherapy or hormonal therapy. Certainly surgery with anesthesia and radiation can cause fatigue. It would be most unusual to have any cognitive changes from radiation treatment to the breast. I would again raise the concern that you may have some emotional issues around your treatment. Most commonly depression can cause difficulty concentrating and significant fatigue.  Discuss this with your doctors to see if some sort of support, therapy, or even medication may help with these issues.

On Wednesday, September 19, 2007, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Working During Treatment. Barbara Hoffman, J.D., Irene Card, and moderator Ruth Oratz, M.D., F.A.C.P. answered your questions about the legal, financial, physical, and emotional aspects of working during breast cancer treatment.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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