On November 21, 2009, the federal Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act (“GINA”) went into effect for employers. GINA elevates “genetic information” to a protected status under Title VII, the federal law that prohibits discrimination in the workplace. GINA creates yet another remedy for employees who have suffered discrimination on the basis of their genetic information and/or retaliation for asserting their rights under GINA. GINA was passed to ensure that employers would not deny costly employment and fringe benefits on the basis of the employee’s remote risk of illness.
California law already prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of a person’s medical condition, including genetic characteristics. GINA broadens the protection to employees by prohibiting employers from requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information about an employee or his/her family members, except under certain limited circumstances. As a result, employer-sponsored wellness programs that seek family medical history information in the course of risk assessments may implicate GINA. GINA also requires a modification of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) employer posting requirement. Go to eeoc.gov to view the current posters.
Employers, both large and small, should update their policies and make sure that their employees’ rights notices and postings are up to date. To comply with the substantive requirements of GINA, employers should train supervisors to avoid discussing medical issues with employees that may implicate GINA. Moreover, employers should review their wellness programs to ensure that they comply with GINA. Please contact Quintilone & Associates if you have any questions about the GINA and your business.