EEOC Announces First GINA Settlement, Files First GINA Class Action

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued a press release announcing the settlement of its first lawsuit against an employer for violating the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). Fabricut, a distributor of decorative fabrics, has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle claims that violated GINA and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The claim stemmed from the company’s asking for an employee’s family medical history in its post-offer medical exam. Rhonda Jones, a temporary employee, was sent for a medical exam as part of her application for regular employment as a memo clerk. The company’s medical provider required Jones to fill out a questionnaire disclosing whether she had a family history of heart disease, hypertension, cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, arthritis, or mental disorders. 

On May 16, the agency filed its first class action lawsuit under GINA against a New York nursing home. EEOC v. Founders Pavilion Inc. (W.D.N.Y., No. 13-6250, complaint filed 5/16/13). As with Fabricut, this suit alleges that after extending job offers, Founders required prospective employees to undergo medical exams at which they were asked to provide information about family medical histories. Founders’ employees also were asked about family medical histories during required annual medical exams and return-to-work exams after leaves. The EEOC is seeking injunctive and monetary relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, on behalf of the class.

GINA makes it illegal to discriminate against applicants or employees because of their genetic information, including family medical history, and it prohibits employers from requesting or requiring disclosure of genetic information. Employers should assure that post-offer medical exams focus on the applicant’s current ability to perform the essential functions of the job applied for, and do not include requests for genetic information.