The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) is a federal law that prohibits employers from not only seeking information about an employee’s or prospective employee’s genetic information, but also from making employment decisions based upon a person’s genetic makeup.
Despite GINA’s enactment nearly five years ago, it was not until 2013 that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed its first discrimination action under the act against decorative fabrics distributor Fabricut Inc.
According to the EEOC’s website, a woman seeking a memo clerk job with the company was turned down for the position based on medical information it compelled her to provide in a pre-employment questionnaire and the erroneous results of a required medical exam. The EEOC claimed that Fabricut’s request for a list of disorders in the questionnaire violated GINA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as did its reliance on the mistaken conclusion from the exam that she may have suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome.
To resolve the claim, Fabricut agreed to pay a $50,000 settlement and implement measures to prevent future discrimination, including posting anti-discrimination notices and distributing anti-discrimination policies to employees. In addition, Fabricut agreed to provide anti-discrimination training to employees responsible for making hiring decisions.
Although it is common for employers to ask employees to provide medical histories and/or to submit to medical exams as a prerequisite to employment or for insurance purposes, many companies fail to realize that such requirements may constitute employment discrimination in violation of GINA and the ADA.
Sommers Schwartz represents both employers and employees relative to employment policies and discrimination actions. If you have questions about related policies in your workplace or suspect employment discrimination due to disability or genetic information has occurred, we’re here to help.