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Colorectal Cancer: In Treatment: At Work: Stages 0,I

If You Haven't Told About Your Condition At Work

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Be cautious about telling now.

Cancer may cause co-workers to feel uncomfortable around you. On the other hand, there are many, many stories of co-workers who pitched in to help, including providing sick days for a co-worker’s use and taking food to co-workers at home.

There is no legal obligation to tell as long as your condition does not endanger other people. 

If your work situation isn’t a good place to talk about your illness, perhaps your best option is to be discrete about what is wrong.

  • Filing an insurance claim does not automatically trigger disclosure of what is wrong with you. In most situations, the insurer and the company’s benefits department are specifically prohibited from such disclosure.
  • Many companies also have a system under which you can send your claim directly to the insurer.
  • It may be difficult to be discrete if you need a lot of time off for treatment or dealing with side effects.

If you do decide to tell, think about:

  • First consider who to tell. 
    • An employer must keep the information confidential. It is better to tell a supervisor in human resources rather than a lower level person. Supervisors are more likely to know about and honor the confidentiality requirement. Remind him or her that you expect this information to remain confidential -- at least until you have a chance to decide who you want to tell and when. For more information, click here.
    • There is no similar restriction on co-workers so what you tell co-workers is not confidential information. For information about telling co-workers, click here. 
  • You may need to tell your employer and likely your co-workers if:
    • You will need time off beyond what you are entitled to as vacation or personal time, or you need an accommodation at work to permit you to do your job while undergoing treatment.
    • You need an accommodation such as moving closer to the bathroom or shifting some of your work to co-workers for a while. 
  • It may help determine whether to tell if you think about whether your employer is cancer friendly or not. (See the document in "To Learn More.")

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