Genetic Information Discrimination

Your Genetic Information Is Your Business

Recent scientific advances have made it increasingly possible to conduct in-depth genetic testing. These advances have had a number of benefits, allowing doctors to detect heritable medical conditions (such as Parkinson's disease and heart disease) and inform patients who could potentially be at risk. However genetic data becoming increasingly accessible and common has negatives as well as positives. One valid concern is that genetic information could be used to discriminate against workers because of their genes, or that misconceptions about the heritability of personality traits, intelligence, or creativity could lead to prejudice and harassment. The federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) makes it illegal for employers to take an employee's genetic information into account when making workplace decisions. Texas state law also features protections against genetic discrimination in the workplace, which Austin Employment Lawyers, P.C.'s Austin genetic discrimination lawyers proudly work to enforce.

What Does Genetic Discrimination Usually Look Like?

Under GINA, employers are prohibited from asking employees or applicants about their genetic information or requiring them to provide such information. "Genetic information" includes the results of workers' genetic tests (such as DNA tests), and their family members' results from such tests. It also covers workers' medical histories and their families' medical histories, and extends to workers' unborn children and their family members' unborn children. Employers who hire, fire, promote, change the benefits of, or classify employees based on their genetic data or medical history have violated those employees' rights under GINA. For example, in one case, a man applying for a job was told that he would have to fill out an extensive, three-page medical history before he would be considered for the position. The company was found to be in violation of GINA, since it had made his job application contingent on his provision of information protected by the Act. It is also illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who complain about an act of genetic discrimination in the workplace.

Workplace harassment based on an employee's genetic information is also illegal. If managers or other workers make derogatory remarks to an employee because of information they have learned about that employee's genetic data (or their family's), they may have engaged in discrimination. If the harassment is so severe or pervasive that it generates a hostile work environment (defined as one where the terms and conditions of the workplace have changed), then it is actionable under GINA.

When Can You Make a Claim?

As with other areas of employment discrimination, victims of genetic information discrimination usually have anywhere from 180 to 300 days to file a claim, with the specific time period depending on the nature of the case. Since these deadlines can be strict, it is important that you consult with one of our Austin genetic discrimination lawyers as soon as possible if you have experienced such discrimination. A qualified attorney can help you make your case as strong as possible in court. If you have not been receiving equal pay, or believe you have a case, you can contact us by filling out our intake form or calling our office at (512) 271-5527.

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