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EEOC combats new form of workplace discrimination

While the development and expansion of medical science and technology is no doubt integral to the health and wellbeing of people in Minnesota and all around the country, there is growing concern that certain advances in medicine can be used to discriminate against citizens. In fact, the threat of individuals’ medical information being exploited is so real that federal legislation is now in place to protect people from such abuse. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is taking up the cause of enforcing laws against emerging forms of workplace discrimination by confronting incidents of genetic discrimination head on.

The EEOC’s strategic enforcement plan highlights genetic discrimination as one of the latest employment law issues to address. Consequently, the federal agency recently filed a class action lawsuit against one rehabilitation center and nursing home, accusing the defendant of disability, civil rights and genetic discrimination.

The defendant is charged with requiring prospective hires to submit to medical exams, where they were asked to disclose their family medical history. Current employees were also subject to annual exams.

According to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, employers and health insurance providers are prohibited from singling out an individual on the basis of his or her genetic information. The law also bans employers from requesting that applicants submit information regarding their family medical history as part of the hiring process.

The EEOC also settled another similar case involving a prospective hire that was denied a position with a company because the employer used her family medical history and exam to gauge that she may have carpal tunnel syndrome.

Workers around the U.S. must be aware that genetic discrimination is an illegal and serious offense. Anyone that fears they may face such mistreatment can seek legal counsel to protect their rights. 

Source: Sacramento Business Journal, “EEOC sues companies over genetic discrimination,” Kathy Robertson, June 4, 2013

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