Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act in New York
Signed into law by President George W. Bush in May of 2008, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act provides much needed employment law protections in a new-era of widely accessible genetic information. Essentially, GINA was enacted to make it illegal for employers to make hiring decisions based on the applicant’s genetic information. Among other things, GINA covers:
- Information related to a genetic test;
- Information related to a family member’s genetic test;
- The applicant’s family history with regard to medical illnesses; and
- Other genetic information that could be used against the applicant.
The law clearly states that a company cannot ask for the history of the applicant or ask a third-party company to obtain the information for them. Your genetic information should be protected against the prying of employers as the details cannot be used to alter your employment status in any unfavorable way.
It should be noted that not every employee is protected by GINA. The federal law only applies to companies or organizations with fifteen or more total employees, including local, state, and federal government agencies. If your employer is covered by GINA, it cannot discriminate against you on the basis of genetic information.
No Adverse Employment Actions Based on Protected Genetic Information
GINA covers more than just the hiring and firing of employees. Employers regulated by the law are prohibited from using protected genetic information as the basis for making employment decisions or taking adverse action against an employee. As an example, it would be unlawful for an employer to reassign an employee to another position that offers a lower level of stress, but also fewer responsibilities and reduced compensation on the grounds of their family history of heart problems. Even if the employer argues that they are doing so for the employee’s benefit, it is still illegal to use that protected genetic information.
Understanding GINA Through an Example: The First EEOC Lawsuit
Job Applicant Allegedly had Genetic History of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
GINA had not been used in a discrimination suit until 2013, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a suit in regard to an Oklahoma woman who went from being extended an offer of full-time employment to having it rescinded when the company found out that the employee to be may have carpal tunnel syndrome. When the woman went for a company mandated drug test and physical, the company was made aware through tests and the applicant’s family medical history that she may have the disease.
No Clear Evidence that Applicant Was Affected by Condition
The third-party company that first tested the applicant and reviewed her family history found their results inconclusive. The woman’s own physician did not find that she had carpal tunnel syndrome. The hiring company’s physician, however, found contradicting results. It was at this point that the company rescinded their offer of employment to the Oklahoma woman, a clear violation of GINA.
Settlement: Employer Not Allowed to Use Genetic/Family History to Deny Opportunity
The EEOC’s lawsuit brought a quick response from the company in question. The company reached a settlement with the EEOC in the amount of $50,000. This settlement brings several things to light and helps to clear some of the confusion around GINA. Employees and future employees have even more protection than before with the precedent of the settlement. This also puts companies on warning that the EEOC can successfully use the act to protect employees, both potential and current.
Why Hire the Workplace Discrimination Lawyers at Ricotta & Marks
Discrimination on the basis of genetic information is still a relatively new frontier in employment law. While the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) answers many questions regarding genetic information, the law is still not well known by many people. Since the act was passed into law in 2009 but has been difficult for both employer and potential employee to understand or interpret. We can help. When you call Ricotta & Marks, P.C., you will have an opportunity to consult with a Queens employment lawyer who will:
- Explain your rights and options under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act;
- Investigate your employment law case—securing all important evidence; and
- Develop and implement a solutions-focused legal strategy to get results.
Our legal practice is devoted entirely to employment law cases. With more than 35 years of combined employment law experience, our attorneys have the knowledge and skill to protect your rights and help you find the best way to resolve your case.
Contact Our Queens Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Attorneys
At Ricotta & Marks, P.C., our New York employment lawyers are skilled, solutions-focused advocates for clients. We are prepared to help you with claims related to the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. If you think you have a potential claim under GINA, you can rely on our law firm. We focus exclusively on employment law and are prepared to bring a discrimination claim on your behalf. Contact our New York City law firm at 347-464-8694 to schedule an appointment.