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Genetic Information Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination Lawyers Advocating for Clients Against Genetic Information Discrimination for Over 25 Years

Genetic information discrimination can negatively affect employees and job applicants looking to be proactive with their health concerns. Many employees and job applicants are worried about going through genetic testing or revealing family medical histories. They worry that employers, CEOs, supervisors, managers, coworkers, and even nonemployees will use this information as a way to discriminate.

Federal and local genetic information discrimination laws prohibit such discrimination in the workplace. Nonetheless, they do not always deter employers from negatively treating their employees based on this information. Many employees also fear speaking out against their employers. They worry about getting fired, demoted, or other forms of retaliation that may come their way.

If you are a victim of wrongful termination, retaliation, or other discriminatory issues relating to genetic information, you deserve justice. You need a lawyer that will help you understand your rights in the workplace. You should trust your lawyer to help you file your claim to receive the compensation you deserve.

What Is Discrimination Based on Genetic Information?

Genetic testing has become a very useful diagnostic tool for people. It helps many people prepare for illnesses, catch an illness early, and prepare for the worst while hoping for the best. As technology and science progress, genetic information testing is becoming more common. People are using genetic testing to see if they may develop cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and other medical issues. It also helps parents know what traits they may pass along to their children.  If used properly, it can help save lives and allow people to properly prepare for illnesses that may arise.

Genetic information also refers to your family medical history. Even without genetic testing, you have a sense of genetic issues through a family medical history. Family medical history can show a likelihood of you developing certain illnesses and potential disabilities.

However, the results of the screenings or family medical histories can cause concern with employers. They may worry about increased insurance costs. They may worry about the time off from work an employee needs to deal with these health concerns. They may even worry about the issues affecting the general morale of other employees.

Whether these concerns are founded does not matter. They do not stop an employer from worrying. As a result, employers may still take adverse actions against their employees. The 1997 film, Gattaca, named this form of discrimination “Genoism.”

Under the law, employees are not mandated to share their genetic testing results or family medical histories with their employers. However, sometimes you may feel obligated to inform your employer of a medical issue or concern.

What Laws Protect Employees from Genetic Information Discrimination?

Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) protects employees and job applicants from discrimination based on genetic information. While they may not currently have a disability, employers, CEOs, supervisors, managers, coworkers, clients, and nonemployees may harass or discriminate against an employee who may develop such conditions in the future.

GINA applies to companies with 15 or more employees. It also addresses how employers can learn of your genetic testing information. GINA says employers do not have the right to the information unless the following occurs:

  • A manager or supervisor overhears a conversation relating to an employee’s or job applicant’s genetic testing results.
  • During the registration process for an employer-offered health and wellness programs where the program requires the information.
  • During the FMLA leave application process, you may need to complete or provide a family medical history.
  • If your employer accidentally comes across a public record discussing your family medical history or genetic testing results.
  • If the employer has a mandated genetic monitoring program that tests for biological effects of toxic items at work. The employer is required to conduct the testing by law, and the testing is voluntary for employees.
  • DNA testing required by law enforcement or forensic labs. The testing is required for human remains identification or DNA markers analysis for quality control to find contamination.
What Does Genetic Information Discrimination Look Like?

Genetic information discrimination can result from genetic testing, DNA test results, and family medical history information.

Some examples of genetic information discrimination may include:

  • An employer refuses to hire you because you are predisposed to cancer at a young age.
  • Your boss does not give you certain assignments. He feels your family medical history revealed you have a higher risk of a terminal illness. He fears you will miss too much work.
  • Your manager fires you because he feels your genetic testing results may raise his insurance premiums.
  • Your coworker learned of your genetic information. She makes crude and offensive comments to you and about you. For example, she states, “Oooh…is today the day you’re gonna catch cancer?”
When Should You File Your Claim for Genetic Discrimination?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles all claims of genetic discrimination in employment. The statute of limitations to file a GINA claim is 180 days from the date of the last incident. In the 35 states with genetic information anti-discrimination laws, you have 300 days to file an EEOC claim.

The EEOC will investigate your claim and issue a finding. They typically issue a Right to Sue letter to allow you to file your claim in federal court. The Right to Sue letter gives you a 90-day time limit to file your complaint.

Each state with genetic information discrimination laws sets independent time limits to file a claim. Check with your discrimination lawyer to determine whether state laws or GINA are best suited for your claim. Allow your attorney to help you file your complaint within the appropriate timeframe allowed by the law best suited to your claim.

When Can You Expect Your Genetic Discrimination Case to Settle?

In some cases, a genetic discrimination case settles before anything is filed with the EEOC. An experienced lawyer can contact your employer about your complaint and offer an opportunity for settlement before filing the claim.

However, once you file the charge with the EEOC, a settlement can occur at any point in the process. Some employers wish to settle the case quickly and move on. In those cases, after 4 to 6 months, you should receive a settlement.

However, some employers will never settle. They will fight until they don’t have any options but to settle. In some cases, they may wait until the judge issues a final judgment.

In these cases, the case may last several years. Some have lasted ten years or longer. Contact an employment discrimination attorney to help ensure your case settles as fairly and efficiently as possible.

How Can the Court Grant You Relief for Dealing with Genetic Information Discrimination?

The law protects you from your genetic information destroying your right to work. When your employer violates the law, you may feel lost, with nowhere to turn.

Under the law, you have the right to bring your employer to court and make them pay for violating your rights. The courts may offer remedies, such as:

  • Reinstating your employment
  • Providing health coverage
  • Changing company policy
  • Reimbursing your medical and related expenses
  • Back and future pay
  • Money for pain and suffering and emotional distress
  • Money for punitive damages

How Can a Discrimination Lawyer Help You Advocate Against Genetic Discrimination at Work?

Genetic information discrimination can destroy your career and employability. Your employer may leak that he fired you for genetic-related issues. It may prevent other employers from considering you for employment.

A dedicated employment discrimination attorney can help you fight for your rights even when you feel no one is listening. Your lawyer understands all of the nuances of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. He can help you truly understand all your employment rights.

Your genetic discrimination lawyer will ensure you meet all of the timelines set by the court. They can vigorously work for you to reach a settlement as quickly as possible. However, if your employer will not settle, they will fight for your rights in court.

With the help of a qualified discrimination lawyer, your genetic information discrimination claim will see its day in court, if needed.

Stand Up for Your Rights Against Genetic Information Discrimination by Following These Steps

Genetic information discrimination creates fear in many people, leading to choosing a job over your own health concerns and needs. As with most discriminatory practices, it is a form of intimidation.

You have the right to take care of yourself and answer your questions about your health. You have the right to keep that information private. You have a right to work without worrying about whether your job will be affected negatively. If you are ready to stand up for what is right, here are some steps to help you get started.

  1. Contact an experienced genetic information discrimination attorney immediately. The law can only carry you so far. You need someone with experience in dealing with these types of cases. They can guide you through the process and answer your questions as they come up.

2. If you are still employed, do not quit your job without consulting with your attorney first. Your attorney can explain how quitting your job may affect your case. They can help you make the right decision for you at that juncture.

3. File a written complaint with HR. This process serves two purposes. First, you are allowing your company to correct the problem. Second, the court will see you attempted to fix the problem amongst yourselves.

4. Follow the company policy regarding genetic information discrimination. Following company policy will serve the same purpose as filing a complaint with HR.

5. Gather as much evidence as you can. Keep track of all written communications, photos, and notes. Document the following:

  • Every incident of discrimination
  • Who is involved?
  • When and where it occurred
  • What occurred
  • Who witnessed the incident?

6. Do not waste time. The laws provide a limited time to file a lawsuit. Do not wait until it is too late.

Contact Our Experienced Team of Genetic Information Discrimination Attorneys Today for Your Free Consultation

You have the right to work in an environment free from genetic information discrimination. You have a right to your health history and genetic information privacy.

If your employer violated your rights, you have a right to fight back. The experienced genetic information discrimination attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group in New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia can help.

Do you feel you experienced genetic information discrimination at work? Do you have questions about your rights under the law? Please let us know how we can help and answer your concerns. Please contact us at 800.807.2209,, or through this form.

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