A press release by the EEOC on January 13, 2014 announced a big settlement on a case involving family medical histories obtained from job candidates. The EEOC told the company involved that a family medical history was none of their business and as a result it was going to cost the company $370,000. Yep, you read that right.
This case involved the EEOC charging Founders Pavilion, Inc. with violation of the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA) and systemic discrimination. Apparently at a nursing and rehabilitation facility job candidates where asked to provide their family medical histories. When GINA was passed in 2008 it became illegal to use genetic information in making employment decisions. Family medical histories are for the most part nothing but genetic information. Yes, people did make decisions on candidates based on what possible medical conditions they might be adding to the company insurance policy. Today that is both poor and illegal decision-making.
Founders Pavilion made this mistake numerous times. In fact five individuals were deemed to have been discriminated against in employment in violation of GINA and the ADA. Two of them were fired for perceived disabilities. In addition another 138 people were asked for family medical information, thus reaching systemic status. Finding systemic cases is one of the EEOC’s strategic directives.
What did these violations cost Founders Pavilion?
- $259,600 to be paid to the five individuals actually discriminated against
- $110,400 to be paid to the 138 people who had provided family medical histories
- The loss of their business. Founders Pavilion sold the facility.
- If they resume business they will have to let all employees know what was done, change policies, put training in place and report periodically to the EEOC
Why it is important to be aware
I would imagine it also cost the HR Manager, if there was one, a job. That is why it is important to stay aware of what is happening in the HR world. The human resources legislative arena is not a static one. It changes all the time. New legislation, new regulations, new court decisions and new state changes require a systematic method of tracking that world. Newsletters, Google alerts and of course blogs are great sources of information. SHRM membership gets you access to information as does membership in a variety of Chamber of Commerce. Avoiding making mistakes like this company did can save a lot of money and jobs.
The final lesson
The final lesson in this is if you are still asking family medical questions to applicants or employees STOP IT! According to the EEOC it is NONE of your business. There is one provision to this and that is if you have fewer than 15 employees you are not covered by this law.