Family Medical History Questions Result in $370k Settlement

Jan 21 2014 - Disabilities, Discrimination - Gail Cecchettini Whaley

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently settled a lawsuit with a New York nursing and rehabilitation center over alleged violations of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The EEOC claimed that the center requested family medical history as part of its post-offer, pre-employment medical exams of applicants. The EEOC also alleged that the center separately violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

GINA prevents employers from requesting genetic information or making employment decisions based on genetic information. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of genetic information or a person’s genetic characteristics.

According to the EEOC, this is the third lawsuit it has brought since the enactment of GINA in 2008 and the first alleging systemic violations. The lawsuit resulted in a fund of $110,400 for distribution to 138 individuals asked for genetic information and $259,600 to individuals who were fired or denied employment in violation of the ADA or Title VII.

“Employers should take heed of this settlement because there are real consequences to asking applicants or employee for their family medical history,” said EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry. “The EEOC will pursue these cases to the fullest extent of the law to ensure that such genetic inquiries are never made of applicants or employees.”

The EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement plan for fiscal years 2013-2016 identified addressing emerging and developing issues, including genetic discrimination, as one of its six national priorities.

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content

CalChamber members can read about genetic discrimination on the HR Library’s Genetic Characteristics and Genetic Information page.

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