Cancer diagnosis no reason to pull job offer according to EEOC

The EEOC filed a lawsuit against Atlantic Properties Management Corporation (and its affiliates), a property management company in Boston for failing to provide reasonable accommodations for a new hire who was diagnosed with cancer.

The EEOC contends that this alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), prohibiting discrimination based on a disability. When the company withdrew the job offer, the EEOC alleges that behavior was retaliation. Here’s what we know. 

EEOC believes the company violated federal law

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, an individual applied to be an administrative assistant to the president and vice president of the company. The company offered her the job. After the job offer was made, she was diagnosed with a form of breast cancer. Her doctor confirmed that she could still perform the duties of her job, but she would need limited time off for weekly treatment. When she notified the company of her need for accommodations, the president withdrew the job offer without discussion. 

Lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts

The EEOC filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination and retaliation. The ADA requires employers to engage in discussion to find reasonable accommodations for persons with qualified disabilities. Jeffrey Burstein, the EEOC’s regional attorney for the New York District Office, said, “This litigation is a textbook example of how the ADA was created to protect workers at a point of deep vulnerability, and it should provide a sharp reminder to employers of the importance of refraining from streotypical assumptions and pursuing the required interactive process.” The EEOC is seeking monetary relief, in the form of back pay and compensatory and punitive damages. 

The takeaway 

Employers should be aware of how cancer impacts employees and be prepared to negotiate for reasonable accommodations while workers are going through treatment. Reasonable accommodations can be different for different types of jobs.

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The EEOC has a guide for employers about what they can and cannot ask job applicants or employees about their cancer diagnosis when approaching their employer for accommodations. This is a reminder not to assume anything about an employee who has cancer and to enter the interactive process for accommodations with an open mind.

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