Under federal law, employers in the United States are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of an individual's sex, age, race, gender, or disability, among others, within the workplace and in the hiring process.
Many Americans are familiar with employment discrimination and likely know that employers can't discriminate on the basis of these classes.
However, a recent class action brings awareness about a less familiar discriminatory practice in the workplace that is equally illegal under federal law-discrimination on the basis of an individual's genetic information.
The employment discrimination lawsuit - overview
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, known as the EEOC, recently filed a lawsuit against Founders Pavilion, Inc., a facility located in New York that handles skilled nursing needs, in New York federal court alleging multiple employment law discriminatory practices.
(The EEOC is a federal agency that investigates discriminatory complaints in the workplace and enforces laws that prohibit such discrimination. The agency also handles matters relating to the retaliating or opposition of discriminatory employment practices.)
In the complaint, the EEOC specifically argues that the facility discriminated against potential employees in violation of federal law, including provisions of both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act.
The EEOC is also alleging the company violated a provision of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.
Prohibition against requesting, using genetic information
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, known as GINA, was passed in 2008. Under the act, U.S. employers are banned from discriminating against potential employees during the hiring process on the basis of an applicant's genetic information.
This includes the applicant's family medical history. The act authorizes the EEOC to take action in the event such practices are discovered.
According to reports, the company required all job applicants to undergo medical exams both prior to being hired and after. However, applicants were required to also produce information about their family medical history as part of the medical exam requirement-a prohibition under GINA.
Along with violations under GINA, the EEOC is also alleging the facility violated provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act. Specifically, the agency says that the entity refused to accommodate one employee with a disability, fired two employees because of their disabilities, and refusing to hire three pregnant employees-all illegal practices under federal law.
The case is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.