EEOC Issues Regulations Relating To the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008


Over two years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”), which, among other provisions, prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of genetic information. GINA defines “genetic information” as information regarding an individual’s genetic tests, the genetic tests of a family member or the manifestation of a disease or disorder. This week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued regulations implementing Title II of GINA, which is the portion of the law applicable to employers. The following is a summary of the new regulations.

Most importantly, the regulations prohibit employers from “requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information” regarding an employee. Such a prohibited “request” would include conducting an Internet search on an individual in a way that is likely to result in the employer obtaining genetic information; “actively listening” to third party conversations or searching an individual’s personal effects for the purpose of obtaining genetic information; and making requests for information about an individual’s health status in a way that is likely to result in a covered entity obtaining genetic information. Because employers often obtain medical information regarding employees which may include “genetic information” as defined by GINA, the regulations recognize an exception when the employer “inadvertently requests or requires” genetic information from employees or their family members, including as part of a lawful request for medical information. To fall within the exception, the employer must give notice to the employee that he or she should not provide genetic information. The regulations provide model language that will satisfy the notice requirement.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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