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Genetic Information Discrimination in the California Workplace: What Employees Need to Know

Genetic Information Discrimination in the California Workplace What Employees Need to Know

Genetic research has made it possible to identify if you may be susceptible to certain diseases or disorders. While genetic testing advancements offer the great ability for doctors to detect, treat, and even prevent some medical conditions early, your genetic information may also make you vulnerable to discrimination in the workplace.

While California and federal laws are in place to protect employees from workplace discrimination due to genetics, some employers may still unlawfully treat workers differently when presented with their genetic information.

What is Genetic Discrimination?

Genetic information includes information about a person’s genetic tests or manifestation of a disease or disorder, or those in a person’s family members (i.e. medical history). Genetic discrimination can happen if you are treated unfairly or differently by your employer due to genetic information that contains gene mutations that may cause or increase your risk of an inherited disease or disorder.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Laws in Employment

There are several laws at both the state and federal levels that can help protect California employees from being subjected to genetic discrimination, including the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and the California Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (CalGINA).

What is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)? 

Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) is a federal law that prohibits genetic information discrimination in both the workplace and insurance coverage decisions. The law took effect on November 21, 2009. GINA expressly prohibits an employer from engaging in the following unlawful behaviors:

  • Discriminating against workers or job applicants due to genetic information.
  • Harassing workers or job applicants due to genetic information.
  • Using genetic information to make employment decisions (e.g. refusing to hire someone, refusing to promote an employee, demoting an employee, laying off an employee, paying an employee less, terminating an employee, etc.)
  • Requesting, requiring, purchasing, or disclosing genetic information (though there are some exceptions).

What is the California Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (CalGINA)?

CalGINA expands upon federal genetic information nondiscrimination laws to provide broader protections in not just employment, but also housing, education, public accommodations, mortgage lending, and elections. Under CalGINA, employees can also recover more in damages than under the federal GINA.

CalGINA amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) by adding “genetic information” as a protected class. Genetic information under CalGINA can include any of the following:

  • An employee’s genetic tests.
  • Genetic tests of an employee’s family members.
  • Manifestation of a disease or disorder in an employee’s family members.

Under CalGINA, California employers are prohibited from requesting genetic services, receiving genetic services, or participating in clinical research that includes genetic services for an employee or an employee’s family members.

File a Genetic Information Discrimination Claim in California

Both federal and California law prohibit California employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of genetic information. Your employer must not use genetic information to make any employment decisions as genetic information is not relevant to your abilities to perform a job.

If you find that your employer has fired you, paid you less, denied you a promotion, or subjected you to any other unlawful behaviors due to your genetic information, it’s important to act quickly. Contact our passionate and expert Los Angeles employment discrimination attorneys at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation today.

Do I Have a Case?

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