Genetic Discrimination

In recent years genetic research has advanced to the point where it is possible to look at an individual’s genome and determine if he or she is at a higher risk for certain diseases and inherited disorders. While this information can empower the individual to make smarter decisions about healthcare going forward, it may also present opportunities for genetic discrimination. This is why in 2008, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which bans many private employers from using “genetic information” in making employment decisions.

The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C., can assist you if you have been fired or suffered any kind of adverse job action due to an employer’s improper use of genetic information. Our experienced team of genetic discrimination lawyers can review your case and take appropriate legal action if an employer violates your rights under federal and state law.

What Constitutes Genetic Discrimination?

GINA forbids a covered employer, which includes any private business in Maryland with at least 15 employees, from refusing to hire or terminating any employee based on their “genetic information.” In this context, genetic information includes information from an individual’s genetic test, a test of the individual’s family members, or the “manifestation of a disease or disorder” in a family member. Family information is important because it is often considered an indicator of whether a person is at a higher risk for certain conditions.

In general, your employer is not allowed to ask you to disclose your genetic information. But an employer may learn of such information inadvertently–e.g., your boss overhears you talking with a co-worker about your mother’s breast cancer, which runs in the family–or when you ask for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for an ill family member. The employer is not allowed to actively seek out your genetic information. Any genetic information your employer does possess must be kept in a confidential medical record.

More to the point, an employer cannot use any genetic information it happens to possess when making a decision that affects your status or rights as an employee. This includes pay, benefits, assignments, and promotions. An employer must base all such decisions strictly on the merits of your work and not the perception, whether founded or unfounded, that you are incapable of doing your job based on your genetic profile.

A Baltimore Genetic Discrimination Lawyer Can Help You

GINA also protects you from harassment or retaliation. That is, your employer cannot create a hostile or offensive work environment based on your genetic information, nor can it take any adverse employment action against you for asserting your rights under GINA. This includes releasing or threatening to disclose your genetic information to a third party without proper legal authorization.

While genetic discrimination may not get the same attention as other forms of employment discrimination, that does not mean that employers or employees should take it any less seriously. If you believe your genetic information has been used against you at work, Baltimore employment discrimination lawyer Jamaal (“Jay”) W. Stafford and his team can help. Contact or call The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, L.L.C., today at (410) 514-6099 to schedule a consultation.