We live in a rapidly changing world, and our laws need to change just as rapidly to accommodate our changing needs. In 2008, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was passed, adding genetic information to the list of protected classes included in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
We live in a world where an individual’s genetic information can be accessed and potentially used against him or her, making it necessary for the federal government to pass a law prohibiting workplace discrimination based on this information. Although it might sound like a plot from a science fiction movie, it is our reality.
Forms of Genetic Discrimination
GINA prohibits employers from using employees’ genetic information as a reason for harassment and discrimination. It also prohibits health insurance providers from using this information to justify a higher insurance premium or ineligibility for health insurance, or to classify certain genetic information as a pre-existing condition when one does not actually exist.
A few examples of genetic discrimination in the workplace include:
- Asking for an applicant’s genetic information in an interview;
- Using an individual’s refusal to provide genetic information as a reason not to hire or promote him or her;
- Terminating an employee because of his or her family medical history or predisposition to a specific condition;
- Using racial slurs or derogatory language with an individual based on his or her genetic information that points to a specific racial or ethnic heritage; and
- Making derogatory comments toward an individual based on his or her health history, such as commenting that he or she should not reproduce.
Your Rights to Your Genetic Information
Under GINA, you have the right to refuse to disclose your genetic and medical information to employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, apprenticeship programs, and joint labor-management training programs. You also have the right to work in an environment free from harassment and other types of discrimination based on your genetic information.
You also have the right to disclose this information as you see fit. You may participate in voluntary health screenings and other wellness programs and in the course of these programs, you may be asked about your family’s medical history as well as your own. You have the right to disclose as much information as you feel comfortable disclosing as well as the right to terminate your participation in this type of program if you feel the questions you face are too invasive.
Work with an Experienced Employment Lawyer
If you have been subjected to any type of workplace discrimination, whether it was based on your race, your sex, your religion, your genetic information, or any other protected status, you have the right to pursue compensation for your damages through a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
To learn more, contact our team of experienced employment lawyers at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. today to set up your initial legal consultation with us.