The first lawsuit ever filed by the EEOC alleging genetic discrimination under GINA has been settled, and the allegations in the suit nicely illustrate the requirements of GINA (or at least what the EEOC views as its requirements). GINA, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, has been around since 2009 but it is widely misunderstood, if understood at all, and there has been little court precedent.

GINA makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or job applicants because of genetic information, which includes family medical history, and restricts employers from requesting, requiring or purchasing such information.

The EEOC alleged in the Oklahoma federal court that the employer refused to hire a woman who had been given an offer of a permanent position as a memo clerk because tests it had conducted concluded that she had carpal tunnel syndrome (“CTS”).

The company had sent her to an outside laboratory for a drug test and physical, and there she had to fill out a questionnaire disclosing the existence of numerous listed disorders in her family medical history. According to the EEOC, “[t]he questionnaire asked about the existence of heart disease, hypertension, cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, arthritis and ‘mental disorders’ in her family. [She] was then subjected to medical testing, from which the examiner concluded that further evaluation was needed to determine whether [she] suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).” 

Although her own doctor found that she did not have CTS, her offer was revoked because the company’s outside lab indicated otherwise.

 The lawsuit therefore claimed a violation of both GINA (since the company asked for her family medical history), as well as the ADA (because the company perceived the applicant as having CTS).  The company settled immediately for $50,000.

An EEOC attorney said that "Employers need to be aware that GINA prohibits requesting family medical history. When illegal questions are required as part of the hiring process, the EEOC will be vigilant. …”

We will be seeing more of GINA as the EEOC zeros in on it.