May an employer withdraw a job offer after learning the applicant once had cancer?


A job applicant, Natalia, was asked to complete a medical history questionnaire and undergo a medical examination after receiving an offer for a security guard position. In the section of the questionnaire that deals with various current and/or past medical conditions, Natalia indicated that she was diagnosed with very early-stage colon cancer six years ago. When the doctor conducting the medical examination asked medically related follow-up questions about the possibility of recurrence, Natalia explained that she did not require any further treatment after the malignant polyp was removed and that her annual colonoscopies for the past five years showed no evidence of disease. May the employer withdraw the job offer because Natalia once had cancer?


No. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employer may not withdraw an offer from an applicant with cancer or a history of cancer if the applicant is able to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation, without posing a direct threat (that is, a significant risk of substantial harm) to the health or safety of himself or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced through reasonable accommodation. In this instance, because Natalia is able to perform the duties of a security guard without posing a direct threat, the employer may not withdraw its job offer.

Source: EEOC Publication: Questions & Answers about Cancer in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),; reported in Employment Practices Guide ¶5371.

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