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EEOC files another genetic information discrimination lawsuit

Most San Antonio residents know that employers cannot legally discriminate against them on the basis of their race, nationality, gender, disability or religion, among a few other things. There are other areas of antidiscrimination law, however, with which many Texas residents may be less familiar. For example, did you know that it is illegal for your employer to ask you about your family's medical history?

In 2009, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act in order to prevent employers from seeking genetic information about employees or applicants, and this information typically comes from family medical histories. This is illegal, in part, because this information could very easily be used for unlawful discrimination.

This law has only been around for a few years and many employers seem to not quite understand it. Last week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settled its first ever case under GINA, and this week it filed another case.

This new cases accuses a nursing and rehabilitation center in New York of requiring employment applicants to have a medical screening as a condition of employment, and during this screening family medical histories would be requested. Employees of the company would have these screenings repeated annually.

In addition to requesting family medical histories--which is illegal in and of itself--the employer also apparently discriminated against applicants and workers on the basis of disabilities or perceived disabilities and pregnancies.

The EEOC lawsuit states that the company fired or refused to hire three women due to pregnancy, fired two women due to perceived disabilities, and refused to accommodate another woman due to a perceived disability, ultimately firing her, too.

Texas residents should take note of this case and recognize that they have the right to keep their family medical histories private. If an employer requests this information, it may be wise to talk to an employment law attorney.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "EEOC Files Class Genetic Information Discrimination Suit Against Corning Rehab Center," May 16, 2013