Childhood Cancer

The population of adults who have survived childhood cancer is growing at a rapid rate. It is estimated that there are 350,000 survivors of childhood cancer in the United States. Thousands of survivors are staying well, growing up, and successfully entering the workforce.

Despite their numbers, some survivors still face job discrimination. Under federal law and many state laws, an employer cannot treat a survivor differently from other employees because of a history of cancer. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits many types of job discrimination by employers, employment agencies, state and local governments, and labor unions. In addition, most states have laws that prohibit discrimination based on disabilities, although what these laws cover varies widely.

The ADA prohibits discrimination based on actual disability, perceived disability, or history of a disability. Any employer with 15 or more workers is covered by the ADA. The ADA requires the following:

  • Employers cannot make medical inquiries of an applicant, unless the applicant has a visible disability (e.g., uses a wheelchair), or the applicant has voluntarily disclosed her cancer history. Such questions must be limited to asking the applicant to describe or demonstrate how she would perform essential job functions. Medical inquiries are allowed after a job offer has been made or during a pre-employment medical exam.
  • Employers must provide reasonable accommodations unless it causes undue hardship.
  • Employers may not discriminate because of family illness.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title 1 (employment) for the ADA. Visit or call (800) 669-4000 (voice) or (800) 669-6820 (TTY) for enforcement publications. Other sections are enforced or have their enforcement coordinated by the U.S. Department of Justice (Civil Rights Division, Public Access Section), which can be contacted online at or by calling (800) 514-0301.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a service provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). The service supports the employment, including self-employment and small business ownership, of people with disabilities. JAN can be reached at or by calling (800) 526-7234 (voice) or (877) 781-9403 (TTY).

In Canada, the Canadian Human Rights Act provides essentially the same rights as the ADA. The Act is administered by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. You can get more information by visiting the national office’s website at