What Is Workplace Discrimination Based On Genetic Information?

Updated: Mar 4

In California, Workplace Discrimination And Harassment Based On Genetic Information Or Family Medical History Is Illegal.


The 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) Title II forbids discrimination in the field of genetic information in the workplace, became effective on 21 November 2009.


It is illegal under Title II of GINA to discriminate against workers or candidates based on genetic knowledge. GINA Title II forbids the use of genetic information in employment decisions, restricts the request, request, or purchase of genetic information by employers and other entities covered by Title II (employment authorities, labor unions, and joint training and apprenticeship programs for labor-management - referred to as 'covered entities') strictly limits the disclosure of genetic information.

The EEOC applies title II of GINA (dealing with genetic discrimination in employment). It is the responsibility of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury to issue regulations for GINA Title I, which concerns the use of genetic information in health insurance.


What's The Definition of "Genetic Information"


Genetic information provides information about the genetic tests of an individual and the genetic tests of the family members of an individual and information about the manifestation of an illness or condition in the family members of an individual ( i.e., family medical history). The definition of genetic knowledge requires a family medical history. It is also used to assess if someone has an increased chance of having a disease, illness, or condition.

Genetic information often involves the request of an individual for, or receipt of, genetic services or involvement in clinical research involving the genetic services of an individual or a family member of an individual and the genetic information of a fetus borne by an individual or a pregnant woman who is a family member of an individual and the genetic information of an embryo that is legal.


Workplace Discrimination Based On Genetic Information

The law prohibits genetic information discrimination in respect to any aspect of employment, including recruitment, termination, compensation, work assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, or any other term or employment condition.

To make an employment decision, an employer can never use genetic analysis because genetic information is not important to a person's current capacity to work.

Workplace Harassment Because of Genetic Information


Under GINA, bullying a person because of his or her genetic details is also illegal. Harassment may involve, for example, making insulting or derogatory remarks about the genetic information of the applicant or employee, or about the genetic information of the applicant or employee's relative.


Although the law does not prohibit jokes, casual comments, or isolated cases that are not serious, workplace harassment becomes illegal when it is so severe or omnipresent that it creates a hostile work environment.

The harasser can be the victim, a supervisor in another area of the workplace, a co-worker, or someone who, such as a client or client, is not an employee.


Workplace Retaliation Because of Genetic Information


According to GINA, it is unconstitutional for an applicant or employee to be dismissed, demoted, threatened, or otherwise 'retaliated' for filing a complaint of workplace discrimination, engaging in a discrimination proceeding (such as an inquiry into discrimination or a lawsuit), or otherwise opposing discrimination.


Laws Against Obtaining Genetic Information


It is normally illegal for a protected individual to acquire genetic information. This ban has six narrow exceptions:

  • Inadvertent genetic data acquisitions do not breach GINA, such as when a boss or supervisor overhears someone talking about a family member's condition.

  • Genetic information or family medical history information can be accessed as part of the employer's health or genetic services voluntarily, including wellness programs, if those basic criteria are met. As part of the qualification process for FMLA leave (or leave under similar state or local laws or under an employment policy), family medical history can be obtained when an employee seeks to leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

  • Genetic information can be accessed by commercially and publicly accessible records, such as journals, as long as the employer does not search for those sources in order to locate genetic information or access sources from which genetic information is likely to be obtained (such as blogs and online discussion groups focused on topics such as human genetic testing and genetic information).

  • Genetic information may be obtained using a genetic monitoring program which controls the effects of certain substances in the workplace, where monitoring is mandated by law, or where the program is voluntary under carefully specified conditions.

  • Acquisition of employee genetic information by employers engaged in law enforcement DNA testing as a forensic laboratory or identifying human remains is allowed. Still, genetic information may only be used to study quality control DNA markers to identify sample contamination.


Confidentiality of Genetic Information


Genetic information about applicants, staff, or representatives is therefore illegal for a protected individual to report. Covered individuals must be kept private and in a separate medical file with genetic records. (In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, genetic information must be kept in the same file as other medical information.) There are limited exceptions to this rule of non-disclosure, such as exceptions that allow for disclosure of related genetic information to government officials investigating accordance with GINA Title II and for disclosures made according to a court order.

It is illegal under Title II of GINA to discriminate against workers or candidates based on genetic knowledge. GINA Title II forbids the use of genetic information in employment decisions, restricts the request, request, or purchase of genetic information by employers and other entities covered by Title II (employment authorities, labor unions, and joint training and apprenticeship programs for labor-management - referred to as 'covered entities') and strictly limits the access to genetic information.


The EEOC applies title II of GINA (dealing with genetic discrimination in the workplace). It is the responsibility of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury to issue regulations for GINA Title I, which concerns the use of genetic information in health insurance.


Getting Legal Assistance For Workplace Discrimination and Harassment


If you have experienced ANY type of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, (including based on genetic information or family medical history) you must consult with a California employment lawyer immediately.


To find a pre-screened, reputable and experienced California employment lawyer near you, please submit your case details 24 hours a day for an immediate and FREE case review. You will get an answer within 15 minutes, you may also call our lawyer referral hotline at 1-661-310-7999


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