The first settlement between the EEOC and an employer over GINA is important because it brings attention to this relatively new law. EEOC charges alleging GINA violations have increased each year. Consequently, it is important for employers to ensure their policies and procedures are compliant with GINA procedures.
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) went into effect in 2009. Some of GINA’s regulations are as follows.
- It is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or applicants based on their genetic information.
- Employers cannot request or obtain genetic information, which includes any information about an employee or an applicant’s family history.
- GINA also applies to third parties. So, employers cannot request or obtain family medical history, even through a third-party medical provider or examiner.
- There are exceptions for voluntary health risk assessments. However, if the employee is receiving an incentive for completion of the Health Risk Assessment, the employer must make clear that an employee need not answer any of the questions about family medical history in order to obtain the incentive.
On May 7, 2013, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) reached a milestone of sorts as it filed – and then settled – its first complaint ever alleging genetic discrimination under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”).
The EEOC filed suit in Oklahoma federal court against Fabricut Inc., one of the world’s largest distributors of decorative fabrics, alleging that Fabricut violated GINA and the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by unlawfully asking a job applicant for her family medical history in a pre-employment, post-job offer medical examination, and allegedly rescinding her job offer based on the belief that she had carpal tunnel syndrome.
The EEOC and Fabricut reached a settlement, which is the first settlement in a GINA case. In the consent decree, Fabricut agreed to pay $50,000 but did not admit to violating GINA or the ADA.