When the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was first published many people were puzzled. They thought “We don’t collect genetic information. We are not taking swabs and running to the lab, so how are we going to get in trouble with this law?” Well companies are getting in trouble and GINA lawsuits are becoming more common.
Examples of cases
On May 7th the EEOC announced that they had settled a case with a company called Fabricut for $50,000 for a violation of an employee’s GINA rights. On May 16th they filed a lawsuit against the Corning Rehab Center for GINA violations. Both cases involved using medical questionnaires as part of the hiring process. Asking questions that reveal family medical histories, and thus genetic backgrounds, is prohibited as part of the hiring process. Both of these companies then went on to exacerbate their mistake by using this information to then deny positions or to rescind offers based upon this information.
In addition to GINA violations the companies were also cited for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because under the ADAAA some of the genetic conditions discovered also qualified as disabilities under the ADA. A double WHAMMY for the companies. In Fabricut’s situation these mistakes cost them $50,000. The Corning case involves more people so I am guessing it will cost them more.
The main lesson in this is that medical questionnaires as screening tools are illegal. Many smaller employers are still using them as a way to try to avoid big hits on their insurance policies but it is a prohibited practice that will cause you nothing but trouble. Eliminate those questionnaires.
I have written about GINA several times but here is the post that lays out much of what is important about the law. GINA Final Regulations are Effective 1/10/2011: Are You Ready? This post might also be instructive to read because it talks about how you can also “innocently” run afoul of the law. Breast Cancer Awareness Month and GINA