Genetic Information Claims May Be Pursued by the EEOC

It is generally not possible for an employer to use a person’s genetic information to make an employment decision. This is true whether the company is in California or any other state.

Employment decisions could include choosing whether to hire someone, terminate an individual or promote someone. If an individual believes that his or her genetic information has been misused, he or she can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The organization will pursue claims based on Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, or GINA. However, few people have actually made genetic information claims, and they made up only 0.3% of all charges filed in 2018. Workers should know that they cannot be retaliated against at work or otherwise subject to a hostile workplace based on genetic information. Genetic information includes a worker’s own medical history as well as the medical history of family members.

With few exceptions, employers are not allowed to ask for such information from employees. Exceptions include accidentally learning about a medical history or if the testing is conducted for law enforcement purposes. Other exceptions may also be made if testing is related to another lawful purpose such as testing the ramifications of toxic exposure. Information collected by an employer must be kept confidential.

If a company violates laws such as GINA, it may be possible to seek damages from that organization. Additional damages may be called for if an individual is retaliated against or subject to harassment in the workplace because of his or her medical history. Damages might include back pay, the value of benefits and other punitive damages. An attorney may help a person file a complaint with the EEOC or take other steps to obtain a favorable outcome in a case.