Genetic Discrimination and Work
There are three key federal laws and directives that protect you from genetic discrimination at work: the Americans with Disabilities Act, Executive Order No. 13145, and GINA.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): a federal law that protects employees from discrimination based on a disability. Under the ADA, employers cannot:
- Ask questions about a job applicant’s medical history
- Require an applicant to take a medical exam before making a job offer
- Take negative employment actions against an employee who is regarded as having a disability because he or she has a genetic predisposition to cancer
For more information, read our Quick Guide to the ADA. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal fair employment protections in GINA and the ADA. For information about state fair employment laws, visit Triage Cancer’s Chart of State Laws.
Executive Order (EO) No. 13145: issued by President Bill Clinton on February 8, 2000. EO 13145 prohibits discrimination in federal employment based on genetic information. Federal agencies cannot require or ask for genetic information from their applicants, employees, or former employees, nor can they use such information to make employment decisions.
Title II of GINA: prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on genetic information, and forbids employers from requesting, requiring, or purchasing such information.
- GINA covers job applicants, current employees, and former employees.
- GINA applies to private employers with 15+ employees, employment agencies, labor organizations, joint labor-management committees, and federal, state, and local governments.
- GINA does not apply to Indian tribes and bona fide private clubs.
Under Title II, employers cannot “fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge, any employee, or otherwise to discriminate against any employee…because of genetic information with respect to the employee.” Employers also cannot:
- Harass an employee based on genetic information
- Attempt to acquire a current or prospective employee’s genetic information
- Disclose an employee’s genetic information without his or her consent
For someone who is concerned about disclosing their cancer diagnosis or genetic status at work, read our Quick Guide to Disclosure, Privacy, & Medical Certification.