Fired businessman reading the notice of job termination

Please think twice before you fire, lay-off, downsize, reduce hours or penalize a person you employ battling cancer without first considering anything else they may be able to do to continue contributing to your success.

There are approximately 17-million Americans currently trying to manage and overcome the emotions and pain associated with a diagnosis of CANCER. They represent a large and productive percentage of the workforce, and often some of the most hardworking, honest, capable, loyal, and intelligent employees who appreciate the value of a job and hard work. They didn’t ask to get cancer, and there is no way for them to have prepared for it. They are trying hard to maintain some sort of “normal” in their life. For many, work is exactly that constant, and they desperately need you to understand and be patient. For most the loss of a job escalates the uncertainty, fear and puts in motion a financial situation that is impossible to recover from.

Business owners are very special people – We fully recognize that as a business owner, whether you are the CEO of a fortune 500 company, an owner of a small service company, or a retailer on Main Street trying to keep the doors open, it is a hard thing and we honor you for the courage it took to start your business in the first place. As a business owner you bear an extraordinary level of uncertainty and are ultimately responsible for the economic lives of those you employ. Recognizing the sensitive reality of the US healthcare system and mandates also add an additional stress and cost to your business. Often on paper, cost increases, especially for insurance coverage, appear to be the right thing to do. That being said, we encourage you to sit across from your employee diagnosed with cancer and look into their eyes with compassion. See them, not as a number but as a valuable part of your team; don’t react to their situation by first worrying about a premium increase and using that narrow view to drive your decisions. Cancer affects all of us, and someday that could be you or someone you love facing cancer just like your employee is.

Hardworking employees are invaluable – For most companies, your employees represent your brand, message, quality, and desire to deliver a quality product or service. They are on the front lines dealing with the consumer and representing you, they are in the trenches digging, they are taking your calls, they are managing your finances, they are your marketing people, your shipping department, the ones that open the store and close it at night, they provide the security you need, they manage the regulations you adhere to as an employer and are unquestionably the lifeblood of any successful organization.

Be creative – before you fire or terminate someone because they have taken too much time off. Remember, they could be in the middle of chemotherapy or radiation and can’t control how they are going to feel. Communication is key. Is there something they could do to help you from home? Telecommuting is one of the most popular enhancements to the workplace recently- with cell phones; call forwarding, live chat, instant messaging and unrestricted access to the internet, it provides opportunities for productivity from someone’s own home. Before pink slips and termination wheels go in motion, IS THERE ANYTHING A HARD WORKING CANCER PATIENT CAN DO FROM HOME?

Parents and kids with cancer – When a child is sick, a loving Mom or Dad will do anything to help that child get better and return to their happy, playful self. If a child has been diagnosed with cancer then the world doesn’t change temporarily, it changes permanently for the entire family. These innocent children and their families are now thrown into a world of uncertainty, fatigue, anxiety and indescribable emotion as they try to answer the quest WHY. If you have an employee in this situation PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE be patient with them. They need you, they need their job, they need the insurance coverage and they need some flex time while they take care of their family. We ask you to be patient and creative on ways this valuable employee can still be productive and contribute to your company in a meaningful way. They will appreciate it, and your entire organization will see how you handle a delicate and life altering experience with a member of your team.

How you handle a cancer employee tells your staff volumes – Words are one thing, but action is something quite different. If company values include teamwork, unity, common goals, and working together, and any other motivating theme,  your entire staff will pay close attention to how you respond to an employee facing cancer. If your “team” sees one of their co-workers handled badly in their time of need, they internalize this – “If it can happen to them, I had better keep my eyes open for another job that takes better care of their own”.

Legal Protections for cancer patients as a reminder or in case you didn’t know – Work fulfills a critical financial and emotional need for most cancer patients and survivors. In addition to providing income and important benefits such as health insurance, employment also can be a source of self-esteem. Cancer, however, may create barriers to finding and keeping a job. It can also wreak havoc on the ability to pay bills and to get adequate health insurance. A major downward spiral begins when a job is lost and the resulting income loss can permantly impact a patient and their family.

Although most employers treat cancer survivors fairly and legally, some employers—either through outdated personnel policies or an uninformed or misguided supervisor—pose unnecessary and sometimes illegal barriers to survivors’ job opportunities. Some survivors encounter problems such as dismissal, failure to be hired, demotion, and denial of promotion, denial of benefits, undesirable transfers, and hostility by co-workers. Survivors can best protect themselves from employment discrimination by learning how to speak up for their rights in the workplace. Cancer Patient Employee Rights

A culture of giving is good business – In a recent article in Fortune magazine they detailed “The 50-best places to work for giving back” – It is impossible to read the stories about,,, and the other 46 companies in this article from and not come to the recognition that giving back in a community, around the world or helping one of your own with cancer is good business and smart management.

Employees say: “This is an extraordinarily special place that really cares about its employees, customers, and community. We are strongly encouraged to give back. I have done everything from volunteering in a soup kitchen, to working at a children’s hospital in Morocco—all supported by the company. Most importantly, I look forward to coming to work every day, working with our wonderful community, and doing satisfying, challenging work.”

Employees say: “One of the outstanding things that I like about working at NuStar is that the company and I share the same moral compass. I enjoy giving back to the community and NuStar not only does the same, but helps provide opportunities for its employees to go above and beyond what each could do as an individual.”

Employees say: “I love how this company encourages you to help out in the community, and gives you an opportunity to volunteer on work time and get paid. Also, it offers volunteer work that you can do from your office.”

Thank-you for listening – As a community of cancer patients we are dealing with the emotions of diagnosis as best we are able. Trying hard to deliver an honest day’s work for a living wage, we are trying to manage our recovery which is expected to be far better than it was even a few years ago with medical advancements. All we ask is that you look beneath the timecard and absentee report and discuss the options- how we can continue to contribute and how we can eventually come back as your most loyal employee because of how you stood by us during our battle with this disease, which we fully intend to beat and never revisit.

Thank-you for listening,
Hopeful Cancer Patients

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