Medical advances such as genetic testing allow doctors to diagnose and treat certain illnesses at the earliest stage. That’s good news. The bad news is that these advances have opened the door to genetic information discrimination, which is illegal under federal and state law. If an employer has denied you a job or treated you unfairly because of your genetic information, Castronovo & McKinney, LLC can help.
We have extensive experience litigating employment discrimination claims, including those arising from genetic information discrimination. When you work with us, we will provide you with informed representation and personalized attention and work to protect your employment rights. Contact us today to consult with an experienced genetic information discrimination attorney.
How Federal Law Protects Employees From Genetic Information Discrimination
Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants and employees because of their genetic information. GINA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local government and employment agencies. Genetic information includes:
- Information about an employee’s genetic tests
- Information about the genetic tests of family members
- Information about an employee’s family medical history
- Requests for and receipt of genetic tests by an employee and family members
- Genetic information about the fetus carried by an employee or family member
Under GINA, employers cannot discriminate against candidates or employees regarding any term or condition of employment, including:
- Job Assignments
- Layoffs or Termination
Because genetic information is irrelevant to an employee’s ability to work, employers cannot use such information when making any employment decision nor segregate or classify employees according to genetic information.
Employers must keep genetic information about job applicants or employees confidential and may only disclose it under limited circumstances, such as government investigations into GINA compliance or disclosures requested by court order. Also, genetic information in writing must be kept apart from other personnel information in separate medical files.
Employer Acquisition of Genetic Information
GINA prohibits employers from requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information about applicants or employees, except in the following limited circumstances:
- Information acquired inadvertently, for example, an employer hearing about the illness of an employee’s family member
- Information obtained through a voluntary, employer-sponsored wellness program
- Information obtained when an employee requests leave under the FMLA or NJFLA to care for a sick family member
- Information obtained from commercially and publicly available sources, such as newspapers
- Information obtained from genetic monitoring that is either required by law or provided voluntarily to track the effects of any toxic substances in the workplace
- Information obtained by employers who conduct DNA testing for law enforcement purposes
If your employer has obtained genetic information without a legitimate reason or your knowledge, or permission, you may have a valid genetic information discrimination claim.
Genetic Discrimination Protections Under New Jersey Law
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) provides employees with stronger protection than GINA because the state law applies to all employers regardless of the number of employees. The NJLAD makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate due to:
- An employee or family member’s genetic information
- Atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait of an employee
- An employee’s refusal to submit to a genetic test or make the results of a genetic test available to an employer
Despite federal and state protections against genetic information discrimination, some employers illegally request or acquire genetic information about their employees.
What Is Considered Genetic Discrimination in New Jersey?
Genetic discrimination in the workplace can take many forms and may involve an employer, coworker, or client. Suppose an employer does not promote an employee based on fears that the extra workload will cause stress that may lead to a heart attack because of their family history.
This is considered genetic information discrimination. Other examples of this form of discrimination include any actions based on an employee’s actual or perceived risk of medical conditions:
- Failure to hire
- Differential treatment or pay
- Withholding training
- Denying promotions
- Exclusion from work events
Harassing an employee because of their genetic information is also considered unlawful discrimination. Finally, it is illegal for an employer to terminate, discipline, or retaliate against an employee who complains, reports, or participates in an investigation regarding genetic discrimination.
Contact Our Experienced New Jersey Genetic Discrimination Attorney
An employer who requests genetic information from you, asks you to take a DNA test, or asks inappropriate questions about your family’s medical history may be violating your rights. This is the time to call Castronovo & McKinney.
We will assess the merits of your claim and explore your legal options. Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to significant compensation, including damages such as:
- Lost wages – back pay and front pay
- Compensatory damages for emotional distress
- The value of lost employment benefits
- Reputational harm
- Attorney fees and court costs
You can trust us to handle your claim with diligence and care and protect your rights. Contact us today to arrange a free consultation.
Castronovo & McKinney, LLC helps clients with their genetic information discrimination claims throughout New Jersey including Bergen County, Essex County, Middlesex County, and Morris County as well as the cities Hackensack, Newark, New Brunswick, and Morristown.