Have you met GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act)?

By: Rachel Dickey, Esq.

Many business owners may not know that a law exists to protect their employees from genetic information discrimination.  That law is called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) and it took effect on November 21, 2009.  So what is genetic information anyway?

The EEOC explains that genetic information includes information about an individual’s genetic tests and the genetic tests of a person’s family member.   Genetic information also includes information about a disease or disorder that manifests in the employee’s family members.  So for example, when you answer questions related to your family medical history, you are providing genetic information as contemplated by GINA.  The reason genetics tests are conducted, or inquiries into family are made, is typically to determine if someone has a predisposition to a particular disease.   These are just a couple of examples of the types of genetic information protected by GINA. 

If you have 15 or more employees, then GINA applies.  So when can an employer consider genetic information?  Genetic information should never be considered in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay adjustment, job assignments, layoffs, or any other conditions and terms of employment.  Why? Because genetic information is not relevant to an individual’s current ability to work.  In fact, the collection of genetic information by employers is generally prohibited except under very specific circumstances, for example, when a manager inadvertently hears someone talking about their family medical history.   

Want to learn more about GINA? Visit the EEOC facts page: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs-gina.cfm