There are many forms of discrimination that can take place at a company, and as the employer, it should be your responsibility to curtail any and all forms of discrimination. You should also never allow your own prejudices to come up during the hiring or promotion process. You are probably aware that you should never discriminate against a job applicant based on race, age, gender, sexual orientation or national origin. In addition to all that, you also cannot discriminate based on information related to a person’s genetics.
What Exactly Is Genetic Discrimination?
Genetic discrimination happens when an employee is treated different or passed over for certain opportunities because he or she carries a gene mutation that increases his or her risk of developing a disease or disorder. For example, you cannot pass over someone who has an increased predisposition toward developing cancer solely for that reason. Many businesses offer health benefits to employees, and some employers may be hesitant to hire someone who is more likely to get sick because they want to limit the chances of the company’s health insurance actually being used.
Genetic information extends to an employee’s family members, who are often covered by a company’s health-care policy. An employee’s genes have no effect on his or her ability to do the job effectively, and therefore, it is discrimination to prevent someone from moving forward in his or her career based on that information.
Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act
Protections against genetic discrimination are relatively new. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) is a federal law that dictates that employers and fellow employees in the workplace are not allowed to be biased against others based on the following factors.
- Genetic tests of an employee and of an employee’s family members
- Family medical history
- Employee or an employee’s family member carrying a fetus showing certain genetic markers
- Any genetic services that have been requested by an employee
GINA protects individuals who simply have the potential to develop illnesses or physical disorders in the future. For employees who already have certain conditions, they are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. GINA only applies to companies that have 15 or more employees. However, some states have additional laws regarding genetic discrimination, and you should check the laws for the state you reside in to make sure you understand everything clearly.
Situations Where GINA Is Not Applicable
While GINA offers numerous protections for a variety of businesses across the country, there are times where it will not help an employee who feels as though he or she was discriminated against. As stated above, GINA does not apply to business with less than 15 employees, but you should check state laws to be sure. It also does not apply to individuals who are employed by the United States military. GINA does not apply in situations where health insurance is acquired through the Veterans Health Administration, the Indian Health Service and the TRICARE military health service. GINA cannot cover disability insurance, life insurance and long-term health care insurance, but there may be other laws in your state that do cover those aspects, so again, additional research is essential.
Protecting Your Business
As the business owner or HR professional, there are certain steps you can take to limit your risk of receiving a lawsuit based on genetic discrimination. First, you can inform all workers about what constitutes genetic discrimination. If one of your employees wants to acquire genetic information, then you should inform them of GINA and the rights given by it. In the event that you are sued on the basis of this bias, then you should seek effective legal counsel to help get you through it.
Create a safe, productive environment where everyone is treated fairly, and you will not have to worry about any discrimination-based lawsuits any time soon.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.