Genetic discrimination or genetic information discrimination is among the more recent forms of employment discrimination prohibited by law. Many people have genetic conditions, like congenital heart defects, or are genetically predisposed to diseases that may have affected or will affect a person later in life. Just because you have a genetic condition or predisposition to diseases does not mean you have to face discrimination at work for it. Employers may discover these genetic conditions through genetic testing, health insurance disclosures, or information they discover about you during a background check. Employers cannot use this information to make employment decisions. If you believe your employer or a prospective employer discriminated against you on the basis of genetic information, then you should talk to a Texas employment discrimination lawyer right away.
Genetic discrimination at work
In 2008, the federal government enacted the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of genetic information. GINA prevents employers from using genetic information about your health conditions, predisposition to injury or illness, or genetic information about certain traits, to make employment decisions about you. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act is enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) like most federal anti-discrimination statutes. The Texas Labor Code also prohibits genetic discrimination in the workplace which is enforced by the Texas Workforce Commission.
Genetic information under GINA includes:
- Family history of disease or disorder
- Your individual genetic tests
- Genetic tests of your family members
- Genetic tests of a fetus carried by you or a family member
- Any request for or receipt of genetic services, genetic testing, or genetic counseling by you or a family member
Employers obtain genetic information through a variety of sources. Health insurance disclosures and plan level information may disclose information to your employer. You may also voluntarily disclose this information for an FMLA certification or a request for a reasonable accommodation of a disability. Your employer might also obtain this information through a background check during the hiring process. Genetic testing is becoming increasingly common in health screenings and diagnosis of illness which means the risk of genetic discrimination in the workplace will also continue to escalate. If you believe your employer used your genetic information to make employment decisions, then you should talk to a Texas genetic discrimination lawyer right away.
What does GINA prohibit in the workplace?
GINA, as well as Texas law, prohibits employers from using your genetic information to make any employment decisions. That includes hiring, promotions, demotions, job assignments, layoffs, compensation, benefits, termination and other conditions of employment. They also cannot use genetic information to classify you adversely for job assignments or duties, even if the employer has good intentions and thinks it is protecting you from a health risk. Employers are prohibited from using genetic information to make employment decisions because it does not tell them anything about your current ability to work. Your past or future health condition does not affect your current ability to perform job duties.
This anti-discrimination statute also prohibits employers under most circumstances from asking employees to undergo genetic testing that the employer intends to use to make employment decisions. If your employer asks you for genetic information, family medical history, or to undergo genetic testing, then you should talk to a Texas genetic discrimination attorney right away.
Also like other employment discrimination statutes, your employer may not use your genetic information to harass you or create a hostile work environment, or retaliate against you for refusing to make a health disclosure prohibited by GINA or for pursuing a case against your employer for genetic discrimination. If you believe your employer violated GINA, then you should talk to an employment attorney right away.
Harassment based on genetic information
Your employer cannot harass you or create a hostile work environment on the basis of your genetic information. A hostile work environment can be created by a supervisor, coworkers, customers, clients and vendors.
Harassment under employment discrimination statutes often requires more than a single comment but you also do not have to endure months or years of derogatory comments before you can take action. Under employment discrimination statutes, harassment occurs if the offensive conduct is so pervasive or severe that it create a meaningful change in work conditions or results in an adverse employment action. If you believe your workplace has become a hostile work environment, then you should talk to an employment discrimination lawyer right away.
Retaliation for asserting your rights under GINA
Under GINA and Texas law you have the right to pursue a case against an employer who discriminates against you on the basis of your genetic information. GINA gives you the right to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC if you believe your employer, or an employer you applied with, discriminated against you. Ultimately that charge may result in a discrimination lawsuit against the employer. You also have the right to refuse an unlawful request for genetic information. Your employer may retaliate against you for asserting your rights by wrongfully terminating you, demotion, pay cuts, reassignment, or creating a hostile work environment. If your employer retaliates against you, then you may have a second claim for retaliation.
Schedule a consultation with a genetic discrimination lawyer
You have the right under federal and Texas employment laws to go to work without discrimination on the basis of your genes. You deserve to have your work valued on the basis of its merits. If you believe you suffered discrimination at work, then you should talk to a genetic discrimination lawyer in Texas right away. You have a limited time period to file a charge of discrimination against your employer. The longer you wait to schedule a consultation the less opportunity you may have to pursue your case.