There are many different types of discrimination listed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, employers are not permitted to use genetic information when making employment decisions. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, genetic testing has made it possible for medical providers to learn more about a person’s propensity towards certain diseases. Doctors can learn quite a bit about your risk for certain serious illnesses like cancer and heart disease based on your family’s medical history and based on your genetic information. While these breakthroughs have improved medical treatments and prevention, there is the risk that potential employers can use this information to discriminate against workers who could become ill. For example, ill workers may use more health care benefits, and there is a concern that genetic information or a person’s family medical history could be used to deny these workers health care benefits. To prevent this type of discrimination, the law protects worker’s rights. Research has also shown that certain ethnic groups may also be more prone to develop certain kinds of diseases. In order to protect these groups and workers, the law prevents employers from discriminating against employees based on their genetic information. Workers should not be denied benefits and employment based on their disability or medical history, unless a disability or medical history would impact the worker’s ability to perform the job. If you believe that your family’s medical history, your genetic information, or your medical history impacted your ability to get a job or your ability to access benefits on the job, consider speaking to Moore & Associates, an employment lawyer in Houston, Texas. Our firm works to protect the rights of workers facing a range of challenges, harassment, and discrimination issues.
What is Genetic Information and How Can It Be Used?
Individuals may undergo genetic testing to learn about their risk or their family’s risk of developing certain types of diseases. Individuals with a family history of certain debilitating diseases may choose to undergo genetic testing to learn more about their risks and to take preventative measures. Others with family history of certain illnesses may undergo genetic testing to learn more about the risk that their children might face of developing certain illnesses. However, with genetic testing comes the risk that insurance companies and employers might use this information when making hiring decisions, firing decisions, or decisions about benefits. Employers are not permitted to discriminate against workers based on their genetic information when it comes to hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, layoffs, training, and benefits. Employers are also not permitted to use genetic information when making decisions about hiring employees. The risk of future disability or illness should have no impact on a person’s ability to work when applying for a given job. So, if an employee discloses that he or she has a family history of cancer, heart disease, or any other debilitating illness, including a family history of mental illness, an employer is not permitted to discriminate against the potential worker based on this information. If you believe that your family history of illness, your genetic information, or your medical history was used to discriminate against you for a job, you may have the right to fight back. Contact Moore & Associates, an employment lawyer in Houston, Texas who can help you if you believe your medical history, family’s medical history, or genetic information was used to discriminate against you.
Harassment and Genetic Information
Workers are also protected against harassment from other workers or employees who may have information about their genetic information. Harassment can include put downs or offensive remarks about an employee’s genetic information or about the genetic information of an employee’s family member. In order for a situation to be considered harassment, it must be “severe” and “pervasive” and must contribute to a “hostile or offensive work environment.” If you are suffering from harassment because co-workers or employers are creating a hostile work environment because of information they learned about your medical history, genetic background, or family’s medical history, you may have rights under the law. Contact the Houston, Texas employment lawyers at Moore & Associates today to learn more.
How Might an Employer Get Your Genetic Information and What Are Your Rights?
There are many ways an employer might have access to your genetic information. For example, if your employer offers wellness or health services, you may be required to provide your family’s medical history or you may voluntarily undergo genetic testing. If you need to take FMLA leave or days off to care for a sick family member, your employer may learn information about your family’s medical history when you fill out these forms. If your employer knows your mother has heart disease or that your child has cancer, this information can be used by your employer to determine your risk of developing these conditions. Another way that your employer might get your genetic information is when your employer monitors workers’ genetic information to track the impact of certain toxins in the workplace. Finally, an employer might get your genetic information if you are required to undergo DNA testing for law-enforcement or legal reasons. Any of these situations can put workers at risk of facing discrimination. Your employer is not permitted to require you to submit to genetic testing as a condition of employment. There are only limited instances where genetic information can be legally gathered. These include:
- For research to comply with government health regulations.
- To obey a court order.
- When an employee seeks FMLA or other state-approved medical leave.
- To comply with a government agency if a person is suspected of having a contagious or infectious disease.
- Or if you expressly give your employer permission to get your genetic information or medical history.
If you believe you are being asked to provide genetic information outside of these contexts or if you feel that an employer is requiring you to submit to genetic testing as a condition of employment, you may have certain rights under the law. You cannot be denied employment, advancement, or benefits because you refuse to submit to genetic testing or because you refuse to provide your employer with a family medical history. If you believe you are facing genetic information discrimination, consider speaking to Moore & Associates, an employment lawyer in Houston, Texas today.