Genetic Information Cannot be Grounds for Discrimination

When you usually read about employment discrimination, the suit alleges discrimination based on race, gender, pregnancy, religion, age, and sexual orientation. The lesser talked about, lesser known protected category is not observable to the naked eye. Why you ask? Because it’s genetic. That’s right; your genetic information is protected by both federal and state law.

According the California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, a “genetic characteristic” is defined as “any scientifically or medically identifiable gene or chromosome or combination or alteration of a gene or chromosome, or any inherited characteristic…” A potential or current employer cannot discriminate against you based on your genetic susceptibility to certain inherited diseases or disorders.

Federally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been operating under the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (“GINA”) that Congress passed in 2008. It also prohibits adverse employment reactions to information regarding a potential employee or employee’s genetic information. At the beginning of the year, the EEOC settled a landmark case regarding genetic information discrimination.

In New York, Founders Pavilion Inc., a nursing and rehabilitation center, recently shut down due to the case. Last May, Founders was sued by the EEOC for requesting “family medical history as part of its post-offer, pre-employment medical exams of applicants.” The EEOC further alleged that five employees were fired after their genetic information was revealed; 138 total employees and potential employees were asked for the information.

Founders was held liable for a $370,000 award for the 138 individuals that were asked for information and the 5 that were terminated as a result.

Though genetic information discrimination is not specifically prevalent in day to day legal activities, if you feel you have been subject to such discrimination, contact Aegis immediately.