May 15, 2013

EEOC’s first GINA suit settled for $50,000

Posted in Americans with Disabilities Act, Disability, Discrimination, Genetic Information, Genetic Information Non-discriminaton Act (GINA), Regarded as Disabled tagged , , , , , , at 10:14 am by Tom Jacobson

I’m a fan of the The Big Bang Theory — the TV show, that is.

Jim Parsons, as Dr. Sheldon Cooper in "The Big Bang Theory"

Jim Parsons, as Dr. Sheldon Cooper in “The Big Bang Theory”

For the uninitiated, it’s a CBS sitcom revolving around the lives of four Caltech scientists, including the narcissistic theoretical physicist, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, who once proclaimed his genetic superiority by divulging that he has, “a sister with the same basic DNA mix who hostesses at Fuddruckers.”

The Big Bang cast can joke all they want about their family history. However, Tulsa, OK-based Fabricut, Inc. has learned that misusing such information at work can be costly, for it has agreed to pay $50,000.00 to settle the EEOC’s first lawsuit under the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act (GINA).

According to the EEOC’s suit, Fabricut offered Rhonda Jones a job and then sent her to a contract examiner for a pre-employment drug test and physical. As part of the exam, Jones was subjected to medical testing and required to disclose disorders in her family medical history. The examiner concluded that more testing was needed to determine whether she suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Fabricut then asked Jones to be evaluated for CTS by her personal physician. She complied, and her doctor concluded that she did not have CTS. Nevertheless, the company rescinded its job offer because its contract examiner indicated that she did have CTS.

The EEOC alleged this violated GINA. Enacted in 2009, GINA is a federal law that makes it unlawful for covered employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of their genetic information, including family history. It also restricts employers from requesting, requiring or purchasing such information. The EEOC also alleged that Fabricut violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In the consent decree settling the case, Fabricut agreed to pay $50,000.00, plus

  • Post an anti-discrimination notice to employees
  • Disseminate anti-discrimination policies to employees
  • Provide anti-discrimination training to employees with hiring responsibilities.

What you need to know: The EEOC has now identified genetic discrimination as one of it enforcement priorities. According to EEOC Regional Attorney Barbara Seely, “Although GINA has been law since 2009, many employers still do not understand that requesting family medical history, even through a contract medical examiner, violates this law.” Thus, employers and employees need to understand their rights and responsibilities under GINA.

For more information about this article, please contact me at alexandriamnlaw.com or  taj@alexandriamnlaw.com.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

Copyright 2013 Swenson Lervick Syverson Trosvig Jacobson Schultz, PA

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