EEOC files genetic information discrimination lawsuit

We write quite a bit about the Americans with Disabilities Act in this Milwaukee Employment Law Blog. Many employers and employees in Wisconsin are aware that this federal law bars employers from discriminating against workers or job applicants on the basis of a real or perceived disability. Another law that is closely tied to the ADA is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. This act was just passed into law in 2009, and many employers do not understand what this requires of them.

GINA prohibits employers from requesting genetic information from their employees or from applicants during the hiring process–typically, their family medical histories. Earlier this week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed its second ever lawsuit under GINA.

The lawsuit accuses a nursing and rehabilitation center in New York of asking for genetic information during its hiring process. Furthermore, the lawsuit also  states that the company violated both the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

According to the EEOC, this company required pre-employment medical exams for job applicants, and these exams were repeated on an annual basis for employees. During these exams, family medical histories were requested. The company then discriminated against several pregnant women and several employees with real or perceived disabilities, violating the ADA and the Civil Rights Act.

As noted above, this is only the second time the EEOC has pursued a lawsuit under GINA. The first case was settled just last week for $50,000.

Under GINA, it is very clearly illegal for employers to request or require family medical histories from employees and applicants. It is important to note that even when these requests are made through a contracted medical examiner–and not the employer–it is illegal and employers can be held respinsble.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “EEOC Files Class Genetic Information Discrimination Suit Against Corning Rehab Center,” May, 16, 2013

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