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Cancer Survivors Face Discrimination by Retail Store Managers, Study Shows

Sarah Jasmine Montgomery
A new study indicates that it may be harder for cancer survivors to find retail jobs if they disclose their medical histories.

Most cancer survivors disclose their health history in job interviews, according to researchers at Rice and Penn State Universities. And, researchers have found that if cancer survivors talk about their cancer history when seeking a retail job, they’re less likely to get a callback from the store manager.

The research suggests people are facing discrimination in the application process despite protections from the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As part of the study, research assistants put on a hat that read "cancer survivor" on the front and hit a mall in Texas with a resume in hand that included a work gap. An asterisk explained the gap was because of cancer treatment.

Those in a control group attributed their resumes' work gaps to “personal reasons.” And the researchers found that cancer is not just a physical barrier to getting work.

"It’s also sort of this social stigma associated with having a disease or chronic illness," says Larry Martinez, a professor at Penn State University. He conducted the study with a professor at Rice University in Houston. They found that 21 percent of the cancer survivor group received callbacks, while 37 percent of the control group got called back.

"I think with cancer specifically, some of the negative stereotypes that are often wrong is that they are maybe inherently sickly or frail in some way, or they might come out of remission," Martinez says.

These stereotypes may be keeping a lot of people from working. According to the American Cancer Society, as of January 2014, the U.S. had almost 14.5 million cancer survivors. Of those, about 930,000 live in Texas.

The study was published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology by the American Psychological Association

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