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HR's Legal Responsibilities

What laws apply when dealing with employees with serious diseases


​​​Federal and state laws govern how employers must treat employees with serious diseases such as cancer. The key applicable federal laws are as follows: 

ADA​: The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits many types of job discrimination against workers with cancer, which is considered a disability. In addition, the law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to help cancer patients perform their jobs. 

FMLA: ​The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for an employee coping with a serious illness or caring for a family member who has one. 

HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act mandates the protection and confidential handling of medical information, including a cancer diagnosis. 

GINA: The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prohibits an employer from using genetic information, such as a genetic test result or a family medical history, to discriminate in employment decisions.

PPACA: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act bars health insurers from denying coverage for any reason, including health status. 

COBRA: ​The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act allows some workers who lose their health benefits to retain them temporarily, though sometimes at a high cost.​

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