EEOC Issues Final Regulations for the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

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The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) became law on May 21, 2008. Title II of GINA, which became effective on November 21, 2009, prohibits the use of genetic information in employment, restricts employers from requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information, and strictly limits the disclosure of genetic information. GINA and the regulations define “genetic information” to include, among other things: information about the genetic tests of an individual and/or a family member, family medical history, and requests and receipt of genetic services by an individual or family member. Title II of GINA is applicable to private employers with 15 or more employees and other entities.

On November 9, 2010, the EEOC issued regulations related to Title II of GINA. The EEOC is charged with investigating alleged violations of GINA.

The EEOC’s regulations are very lengthy so only a few important provisions will be discussed in this article. The regulations make it clear that employers are not permitted to use genetic information in making employment decisions, including health benefits. In addition, the EEOC’s regulations broadly define “request” for genetic information to include such actions as conducting an internet search on an individual that is likely to result in the discovery of genetic information and actively listening to third-party conversations with the intent of obtaining genetic information.

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