Genetic Information Is Off-Limits in Employment Decisions

Lora Bentley

Employers can now add genetic information to the list of things-like race, gender, age and disability-they cannot consider when making hiring and firing decisions or any other employment decisions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published its final regulations implementing Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) on Nov. 9.

 

According to Workforce Management, Title II of the GINA "prohibits using genetic information in making employment decisions, restricts acquisition of genetic information by employers and strictly limits its disclosure." Broadly, genetic information includes information about a prospective hire's genetic tests and "the manifestation of a disease or disorder" in that person or in his or her family members.

 

As the EEOC explains:

An employer may never use genetic information to make an employment decision because genetic information doesn't tell the employer anything about someone's current ability to work.

Moreover, teasing, comments and other "incidents" because of an employee or prospective hire's genetic information rise to the level of prohibited harassment when they are so severe and pervasive as to create a hostile work environment or result in an adverse employment decision.

 

The one bright spot for employers in the final regulations? They may use genetic information "in connection with voluntary wellness programs" even when those voluntary programs include a financial incentive.



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