As an American worker, you have the right to pursue a career without fear of discrimination. Discrimination happens any time an employer refuses to hire or promote an individual, terminates an individual, or assigns workplace duties solely on the basis of characteristics such as age, race, sex, religion, or national origin. In 2009, it also became illegal for employers to discriminate against workers on the basis of their genetic information.
What is Genetic Discrimination?
Genetic information can be obtained through genetic testing. This may be performed in medical settings to determine an individual’s risk of developing certain conditions or passing them onto their children. Some people also have genetic testing performed to learn more about their ethnic heritage.
With the rise of genetic testing and the availability of individuals’ genetic information, concern about genetic discrimination in the workplace has become an increasingly discussed topic.
Genetic discrimination often refers to the act of discriminating against individuals because of their risk of developing certain conditions and thus, may need extensive healthcare coverage or disability accommodations in the workplace. It is also possible to use genetic information to discriminate on the basis of a workers’ ethnic or racial heritage.
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)
Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits genetic discrimination in all areas of employment. Employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations are prohibited from making employment decisions based on a current or prospective employee’s genetic information. This includes refusal to hire or promote, denial of health benefits, harassment, and wrongful termination. Employers are further barred from requesting genetic information from employees and applicants or purchasing genetic information about individuals. The Act also limits the disclosure of genetic information in the workplace. Individuals who experience genetic discrimination have the right to take legal action against their employers without fear of retaliation.
There are a few exceptions to the rules set forth in GINA, such an employer’s permission to obtain genetic information as part of an evaluation for voluntary wellness programs. Family history may also be requested as part of the certification process for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It is not illegal for an employer to inadvertently obtain genetic information by overhearing casual discussions of family illnesses or to use employee DNA as a control sample in settings like forensic labs where genetic testing is used for identification purposes.
South Jersey Discrimination Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Represent Victims of Genetic Discrimination
Although the idea of your genetic information being used to justify certain treatment can feel like something from a science fiction novel, it is our reality today. However, this does not mean it is legal, appropriate, or fair. If you have faced genetic discrimination in your workplace, fill out our online form or call 215-569-1999 to schedule a consultation with a South Jersey discrimination lawyer in our Philadelphia office. The dedicated team of South Jersey employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. work with clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.