What is Genetic Information Discrimination?
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) was passed in 2008. GINA makes it illegal for employers with more than 15 employees to discriminate against an employee based on their own, or a family member’s, genetic information. For example, an employer cannot legally terminate a female employee after learning that the employee tested positive for the BRCA gene which could predispose her to breast cancer. The employer cannot legally terminate the employee on the basis that she might develop breast cancer and miss time from work. An employer also cannot terminate an employee based on a potential increase in an employee’s health care costs, without violating the law.
GINA also prohibits employers from asking about an employee’s genetic information or requiring genetic medical tests. Non-genetic testing is allowed. For example, a police officer who is required to have a physical prior to starting work cannot be questioned or required to take a blood test that would show that he has cystic fibrosis. The police officer can be required to submit to an HIV test or a cholesterol test for legitimate work-related reasons.
GINA also makes it illegal to retaliate against an employee who refuses to provide genetic information, to submit to a test that would disclose the employee’s genetic information, or who participates in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under GINA.