The Legal Side of Chemobrain

Published on: 
CURE, Spring 2011, Volume 10, Issue 1

Getting back to work after cancer can be intimidating, especially if complicated with symptoms of chemobrain.

Getting back to work after cancer can be intimidating, especially if your job requires tasks made more complicated by the symptoms of chemobrain. What if your occupation depends on your ability with words and instant recall? What if your profession requires fast, accurate decisions based on memory? What if you return to work to find you have been demoted because a supervisor thought the job was too rigorous?

For example, one person might say, “I can’t work anymore because I have chemobrain,” or, at another extreme, a supervisor might say, “Let’s not give an important project to her because she’s got chemofog.”

For patients returning to work, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents employers from discriminating, and they cannot take action against you for asking for your rights under the ADA. But to get protection under the ADA you have to prove disability, which can be a long, arduous process.

Joanna Morales, attorney and director of the Cancer Legal Resource Center (CLRC), says the concentrating, thinking and communicating aspects of disability may speak to the problems associated with chemobrain. If disability can be proven, the ADA will protect you from discrimination and require reasonable accommodations from your employer.

Reasonable accommodations are things that will help someone in the workplace, such as having meetings audio or video recorded, or organizing your workspace to make concentration easier.

If you feel the need to prove disability because of cognitive problems, there are many sources for help and support including:

Cancer Legal Resource Center, 866-the-CLRC (843-2572)

Americans with Disabilities Act

Technical Assistance, 800-514-0301

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 800-669-4000

Social Security Administration, 800-772-1213