Fear and misunderstanding have fastened an unshakable stigma to cancer. But cancer survivors--and, lately, AIDS patients--are hardly alone among victims of serious disease in suffering discrimination in the workplace.
For people with epilepsy, a nervous system disorder characterized by seizures and periods of unconsciousness, job discrimination is the single most serious social problem, according to a 1977 study by the National Epilepsy League. Job bias is so widespread among the nation's 1 million epilepsy sufferers that the U.S. Department of Labor has helped fund a job placement program through the Epilepsy Foundation of America since 1976.
"Many employers are not aware of what epilepsy is, and it's frightening if people have a seizure, so a lot of people are not open to hiring people with epilepsy," explained Patricia Charde, an employment specialist with the Epilepsy Society of Los Angeles County.
The Arthritis Foundation is only beginning to gain an awareness of the job-related problems of arthritis patients, according to Floyd C. Pennington, a vice president of the Atlanta-based organization.