EEOC settles genetic information discrimination case

The EEOC has settled its bid to ramp up enforcement of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). In 2013, the EEOC filed a class action suit against Founders Pavilion Inc., a New York rehabilitation and nursing facility.  According to the suit, Founders conducted post-offer, pre-employment medical exams of applicants, including a request for family medical history. The EEOC alleges that Founders refused to hire women who were pregnant or who it perceived had disabilities. The suit also alleged asserts violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  Ten months into the case, the parties reached a settlement, which included a payment by Founders of $370,000.

The EEOC’s class action came on the heels of a $50,000 consent decree it obtained a little closer to Texas, against Tulsa-based Fabricut, Inc. In that case, the EEOC alleged that the fabric distributor violated GINA and the Americans with Disabilities Act by asking an applicant prohibited questions about her medical background, and then refusing to hire her because it believed she had carpel tunnel syndrome.

Although GINA has been on the books for four years, it has remained relatively low profile. These suits are a reminder to employers that requiring employee medical examinations and asking medical history questions implicate a number of federal regulations, including GINA.

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