Cancer Patients Not Required to Share at Interviews

You are under no ethical or legal obligation to tell prospective employers about your condition.

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Imagine that you lose your job. You begin mailing résumés, networking and touching base with friends, and you finally net an interview. As you sit down with the hiring manager—dressed in your finest, ready with answers to the toughest questions—there is one question that looms largest in your mind: Should you share the fact that you are fighting cancer?

One reader asks JT & Dale Talk Jobs how and when she should tell that she has recurring ovarian cancer. Here's a key section from their response:

Dale: First, let's talk about your legal obligations—there are none. Here's how one of our favorite employment attorneys, Scott Gordon of the Rodey Law Firm in Albuquerque, N.M., put it: "This job applicant is under no obligation to disclose her medical condition to any potential employer. Indeed, under the Americans With Disabilities Act, her potential employers are forbidden from asking about it." Understood. But, I wondered, what happens after she starts and needs time for medical appointments? Scott replied: "At that point, she'll have to disclose her condition and the need for leave. The act requires that the employer and employee work together to arrive at an accommodation that meets the employee's needs and doesn't create an undue hardship on the employer."

Other points the bloggers make:

  • If you're fired for not disclosing your condition—find yourself a lawyer.
  • You don't have an ethical obligation to share your condition.
  • Since you will likely one day need time off for medical care, you could work something into the interview about cancer survival as one of your strengths. The openness could backfire, but it could also separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and "get you a better-quality person as a new boss," Dale writes.


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