Genetics is still a young science, but it can nonetheless have a significant impact on your life. Like most New Yorkers, you probably know that your genes affect things like your chances of developing certain diseases. You may not be aware, however, that they can also determine how people treat — and mistreat — you in the workplace.
Genetic information discrimination may lack the long history that characterizes other types of unfair professional treatment, but it’s no less harmful. At Leeds Brown Law P.C., we stay up to date with the cutting edge of legal practice and genetic science. We’re proud to fight so that your most personal data doesn’t end up compromising your chances of a great career.
Genetic information discrimination is when people treat others differently because of hereditary factors that they have no say over. For instance, you might be singled out among your coworkers because you possess a mutation that raises your chances of contracting a particular disease, such as heart failure or breast cancer. Such discrimination might lead to you being denied certain benefits, promotions, assignments or other forms of employment opportunities.
In 2008, the U.S. Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Law, or GINA, specifically to combat such forms of mistreatment. In addition to stopping entities like health insurers from discriminating against you based on your hereditary risks or genetic test results, this law forbids your employer from using your genetic information as a reason to
Don’t be too worried if what happened to you isn’t on this list. GINA is deliberately open-ended, so you might still have a case. For instance, the rules say that your boss generally can’t ask you about your family medical history or require you to supply a DNA sample as a pre-employment condition. They’re also not allowed to investigate your family members’ genetic backgrounds.
Unfortunately, not all bosses follow the law to the letter. What’s more, there are a few key exceptions to the GINA rules forbidding companies from trying to acquire your genetic information. For instance, imagine that you worked for a company that handled client gene samples throughout the regular course of business. Your employer might have valid grounds to request your personal genetic information to prevent cross-contamination. In some situations, your company might get its hands on your data unintentionally, such as when you voluntarily share it.
Such exceptions and the existence of safe harbor rules make it critical to speak with a legal advisor to determine whether you have a case. Increasingly common employment factors, such as employee wellness programs, family and medical leave, and workplace substance exposure safety programs, can seriously muddy the waters. It’s wise to seek advisement before pursuing compensation.
Even if your employer’s acquisition of your genetic information was exempt from the general rules, the way they used it might not be. GINA includes strict confidentiality requirements, and its safe harbor exceptions are clear about what is and isn’t allowable.
Genetic information discrimination incidents can be complicated, and the law only gives you a limited window to lodge a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC. Even if you’re nowhere near the 180-day deadline, it’s smart to act soon. Getting your case moving early improves your odds of being able to collect the appropriate evidence in support of your argument.
If you think your employer used your genetic information against you, then talking to a lawyer might be the best remedy. Here at Leeds Brown Law P.C., we make it our business to ensure that you stay informed and prepared to exercise your rights. Learn more by scheduling a consultation now.