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When chronic illness threatens your job

For some workers, the diagnosis of a chronic illness can strike fear into their hearts.  How will they work, how will they provide for their family?  The uncertainty of chronic illness is only made worse by the sorry state of job protection laws in the United States.

According to a study by the Center for Economics and Policy Research, the United States is the only one of 22 nations that does not guarantee workers paid time off for illness.  What little protection there is for ill workers – especially those with chronic illness – is somewhat vague.

When struck with a debilitating illness, many workers must find their way around confusing employer policies and federal laws and work out a solution that may include short or long-term disability benefits.

Other countries like Germany offer paid sick days and paid time off for treating serious illnesses like cancer.  In the U.S., companies without sick leave may give employees a few extra vacation days that can be used when sick, but some companies don’t offer paid time off for illness at all.

The laws for workers suffering from serious chronic illnesses are even murkier and thinner than those for ‘regular’ illness.  And for those unable to work because of a chronic disease, Social Security Disability may be the only answer.  Unfortunately, the application process for disability benefits is very long, and requires proof that you are unable to work.