A relatively new genetic discrimination law will soon make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of genetic information in any aspect of employment, including hiring, termination, pay and benefits.
Former President George W. Bush signed the genetic discrimination law, officially referred to as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), on May 21, 2008.
As a whole, the Act prohibits both employers and health insurers from discriminating on the basis of genetic information, such as a predisposition to an illness or disease based on family medical history or a genetic test. Title II of the Act applies to employers and becomes effective on November 21, 2009.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the government agency tasked with enforcing Title II and related regulations, “There are no situations in which it is permissible to use genetic information to make an employment decision.”
Title II of the genetic discrimination law also prohibits retaliation against employees for reasonably exercising their rights under the law, as do all discrimination laws. Additionally, it prohibits genetic-related harassment that creates a hostile work environment.
Title II generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and federal government employers. It also applies to employment agencies, labor unions and joint labor-management training programs.
Title I of the genetic discrimination law makes it illegal for health insurers to discriminate on the basis of genetic information. Title I started taking effect on May 22, 2009 and will continue to do so in phases up to May 21, 2010.
Title III amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), to stiffen the penalties for employer violations of its child labor provisions. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act also amends several other laws.
For more general information about Title II of the genetic discrimination law, such as where to file a complaint of genetic discrimination against your employer, see the article Genetic Discrimination in Employment. For specific legal advice that fits your particular situation, consult a lawyer.