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Genetic information discrimination prohibited by federal law

Discrimination in any aspect of employment based upon an employee's genetic information is strictly prohibited by Title II of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008. Genetic information cannot be used by employers to make employment decisions and employers may not request, require, or purchase the genetic information of an employee. Although some narrow exceptions are defined regarding the acquisition and disclosure of genetic information, employers generally are prohibited from acquiring or disclosing this information.

Information about a person's genetic testing or the genetic testing of a relative is included within the definition of genetic information, as is a person's family medical history. Because this information is frequently used to predict a person's predisposition or risk of certain future illnesses or diseases, GINA addresses the concern that employers may in some instances misuse an employee's information and medical history, resulting in adverse employment actions against an individual.

Employment discrimination, harassment or retaliation of any kind based on a worker's genetic information is illegal under GINA. As with other types of employee harassment, genetic information harassment must be severe and frequent enough so as to create a hostile work environment for an employee or result in an adverse employment decision against a worker, such as demotion or termination. Retaliation in any form because of an employee's opposition to discrimination or participation in a discrimination charge or proceeding is also prohibited.

Employment attorneys assist workers in navigating this complex and evolving area of the law. Seeking the counsel of an attorney may alleviate some of the stress associated with the legal process of ensuring that an employee's rights related to his or her genetic information are protected.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Genetic Information Discrimination", October 21, 2014

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