It’s hard to imagine anything quite as life changing as hearing a doctor tell you that you have cancer. Questions about survival, treatment side effects, and downtime from your job and the activities you love, swirl through your mind. The last thing you need to worry about is being harassed and punished by your employer for undergoing what you need to combat this vicious disease and get back to where you were before it attacked your body.
And yet, that’s just what one San Francisco cancer survivor encountered during treatment for a tumor while working for San Francisco State University.
In 2014, Angela Sposito underwent chemotherapy to treat it and when she returned to work, she was treated differently. For example, she was not allowed to attend meetings that she previously had attended even though she was never given a reason not to be a part of them anymore. She was also allegedly encouraged to quit because her supervisor was scared of finding her dead at work. Sposito was also placed on involuntary administrative leave. While she was out, upper management allegedly told two employees that she thought Sposito suffered from “chemo brain.”
In 2016, Sposito was allowed to return to work after being evaluated and was transferred to another job in the University’s human resources department.
What Does This Mean for Your Business?
Unfortunately, cancer is a more common disease than anyone would like to admit. It’s also a brutal disease that requires long-term treatment and many hours of missed work. Still, there are ways to embrace a person on your workforce during this incredibly difficult time and keep them as active as possible on the job.
Although the Sposito scenario is extreme, many cancer patients and survivors struggle with how they’re treated by their employer during their experience battling this disease. As an employer, by planning for how you’ll tackle extended sick leaves like this now will help you avoid a potential HR catastrophe, while also showing your employees you care. Here are a few ways to get you started in your planning process.
Modernize Your Company Culture
As a leader in your organization, people look to you as an example for how to treat other employees. If you push away the person who is battling a serious illness, like in the case of the San Francisco State University, those feelings of being unwanted and changed will permeate throughout the office.
Modernize your company culture to encourage people to be flexible in their scheduling of work and how they handle others who need a little extra help during a trying time.
To the extent you can, get flexible with how you schedule your team. If someone needs a little more agility in their workdays so that they can make it to chemotherapy appointments and rest afterward, offer it. Or, if someone needs to be able to work from home for a few days after receiving treatment, find ways to make that happen.
The more you can be flexible in how you schedule your employees, the better they’ll feel when they need to miss work for as justified a reason as cancer.
Lead Out of a Place of Clarity
The clearer you are on your policies for how you treat and adapt to people with severe long-term illness, the easier it’ll be for everyone. Get clear on how you want to handle these situations before they arise. Then, implement the plan transparently, so everyone is on the same page.
Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Atlas Business Solutions was named as one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies in 2004 through 2007 and again in 2010, 2013 and 2014.