Almost four years after the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act took effect, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently filed and settled the agency’s first lawsuit alleging discrimination under the law.
GINA prohibits discrimination based on genetic information as well as the “acquisition” of genetic information by an employer, including an employee’s family medical history.
According to the EEOC, Oklahoma-based Fabricut Inc. ran afoul of the law when the company’s medical examiner handed a questionnaire to a prospective employee as part of a post-job offer medical exam.
Rhonda Jones was a temporary memo clerk who applied for a permanent position with the company. Fabricut made Jones an offer and sent her to a medical examiner for a drug test and physical. At her appointment, Jones was given a questionnaire to complete which questioned her about the presence of a variety of disorders in her family history, including cancer, diabetes, arthritis and heart disease, as well as “mental disorders.”
After her exam, Jones was instructed to visit her personal physician for further testing to determine if she suffered from carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS).
Although Jones’ doctor cleared her, the EEOC said Fabricut rescinded its offer based on the company’s belief that she had CTS.
Interestingly, the agency’s suit began simply as an Americans with Disabilities Act claim based on Fabricut’s rescinded job offer.
But during the course of the investigation, the EEOC reviewed the questionnaire completed by Jones and determined it “reflected an unlawful inquiry for genetic information” on its face, adding one count of GINA discrimination to the suit filed in Oklahoma federal court.
“Employers need to be aware that GINA prohibits requesting family medical history,” David Lopez, EEOC general counsel, said in a press release about the case. “When illegal questions are required as part of the hiring process, the EEOC will be vigilant to ensure that no one be denied a job on a prohibited basis.”
Under the terms of the proposed consent decree, Fabricut did not admit to a violation of the ADA, GINA or any other law but agreed to pay Jones $50,000.
The company will also initiate various ADA and GINA anti-discrimination measures, including management and human resources training as well as the dissemination of company policies to employees.
Fabricut – described by the agency as one of the world’s largest distributors of decorative fabrics – also promised to stop the practice of inquiring into genetic information of applicants and their family members and will only refer applicants to post-offer health assessments in compliance with the law going forward.