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Information on genetic discrimination

Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an applicant or employee on the basis of genetic information.

Genetic information can include information regarding genetic testing by an employee or applicant, as well as those associated with family members. Family medical history is part of genetic information as it is often used as a means of determining if a person is at risk of developing a particular condition.

Even though genetic information discrimination is not as common as other types, this is something that comes to the forefront from time to time. The law strictly forbids any type of discrimination based on genetic information. This includes decisions regarding hiring, firing, promotions, layoffs, job assignments and benefits.

Along with discrimination, employers must not harass or retaliate against an employee or applicant due to genetic information.

There are also rules that govern how genetic information is acquired, as well as confidentiality. For example, a covered entity is not permitted to disclose genetic information about an employee or applicant. This information must be kept confidential. It is often stored with other medical information to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Genetic information discrimination does not get nearly as much as attention as other types, such as disability, religion and race. Even so, it has plagued many employees and applicants in the past. Those who feel they have been discriminated against because of genetic information, such as related to their family health history, must understand their rights and options for taking action.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Genetic Information Discrimination," accessed June 23, 2015

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