On September 6, 2011, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the California Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (CalGINA), which will take effect on January 1, 2012. CalGINA amends anti-discrimination laws already in effect to prohibit genetic discrimination in areas, such as housing; mortgage lending; employment; education; and public accommodations. CalGINA provides broader protections from genetic discrimination than does the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008, which is limited to employment and health insurance coverage. This Alert focuses on CalGINA's potential impact on employers in California.
California and federal laws already prohibit employers and businesses from discriminating against individuals on the basis of race, gender, age, religion and disability, among other protected classifications. In a statement detailing Senate Bill 559, CalGINA, State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) said, "Discrimination on the basis of genetic information is no less offensive than discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation." "California has a compelling interest in promoting and fostering the medical promise of genomics while relieving the fear of discrimination by strengthening laws to prevent it." Genomic sequencing is quickly approaching the point where it will be widely affordable to the general public and, potentially, a covered insurance benefit.
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