While many workers in Arizona know that racial, gender or age discrimination are prohibited in the workplace, few people may know or understand the prohibition on genetic information discrimination. One of the newest aspects of workplace civil rights law, the prohibition on using genetic information when making employment decisions, became effective in 2009. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigates complaints related to the inappropriate application of genetic information at work alongside more traditional discrimination complaints. However, they make up only a tiny fraction of the overall complaints received by the agency, amounting to only 0.3%, according to 2018 statistics.
The 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act barred employers and other companies from workplace discrimination based on employees’ family medical history or other genetic information, such as the results of DNA tests or genetic tests on a pregnant woman’s fetus. The law was intended to protect workers from firing, demotion, layoffs or other employment consequences based on a belief, for example, that they may be more expensive to insure due to their family medical history. The law also bars insurers from discriminating against people due to their genetic information.
Some issues that have appeared over the years in relation to genetic information discrimination included the use of non-job-related details in fitness for duty exams or inquiries into family medical history as part of workplace wellness programs. Even when employers may legally access information about workers’ genetic information or family history, they must keep it confidential and separate from employment decisions.
With the rising popularity of at-home DNA testing, there may be an increase in interest and concern about genetic information discrimination on the job. People who have suffered harassment or discrimination because of their identity can consult with an employment lawyer about the options available to seek accountability and compensation.