Maloney O'Laughlin PLLC fights for employees throughout Washington, from Seattle to Spokane.

Maloney O'Laughlin PLLC fights for employees throughout Washington, from Seattle to Spokane.

Workplace genetic discrimination is unlawful

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2024 | Race And National Origin Discrimination

Genetic discrimination in the workplace occurs when a job applicant or an employee is treated unfavorably by an employer because of their genetic information. Protected genetic information can include the results of genetic tests, results of genetic tests of family members (including a biologically-related embryo or fetus) or family medical history. It can also include the result of participation in clinical studies or genetic counseling.

The federal law that protects individuals from genetic discrimination in the workplace is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008. GINA safeguards workers and job applicants from genetic discrimination as manifested in various ways, including the following:

  • Employment Decisions: Refusing to hire, firing or demoting an individual based on genetic information indicating a predisposition to a particular disease.
  • Harassment: Creating or failing to intervene in the creation of a hostile work environment through unwelcome comments or actions related to an employee’s genetic information.
  • Disclosure: Illegally sharing an employee’s genetic information with unauthorized third parties.

Because genetic information discrimination is a relatively new form of mistreatment, many workers remain unaware that they’re protected from it by law. As such, it may be harder to spot than the kinds of mistreatment that most workers are aware that they may be forced to endure in order to get or keep a job. 

Why genetic discrimination matters

Genetic discrimination poses significant concerns for employees and job applicants in numerous ways, including the following:

  • Privacy Violation: Unauthorized access to genetic information can lead to privacy breaches and misuse of sensitive data.
  • Fear of Testing: Employees may avoid genetic testing or participating in genetic research due to fear of discrimination, potentially missing out on critical medical information and preventive care.
  • Unfair Treatment: Genetic information does not necessarily predict an individual’s ability to perform a job. Discriminating based on potential health risks rather than actual performance is unfair and unjust.

Genetic discrimination in the workplace is a serious issue that violates employees’ rights and privacy. Understanding the protections provided by laws like GINA is important for ensuring fair treatment in employment matters. If you face genetic discrimination, taking prompt action and seeking legal guidance can help you to protect your rights and exercise any opportunities available to you when it comes to seeking recourse.