On May 21, 2008, the President signed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) into law. The GINA makes it illegal for companies and insurers to discriminate against people based on their genetic information, such as the predisposition of people to develop breast cancer, sickle cell disease, or diabetes.
Genetic information is defined as:
- an employee’s genetic tests
- the genetic tests of family members of an employee, or
- the manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members of an employee.
Family members include the employees, spouse, dependent children, and all blood relatives of the employee, spouse, or child.
The law also makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to acquire genetic information regarding an employee or a family member of the employee, with certain exceptions. Notably, the law permits an employer to acquire family medical history information as part of the FMLA medical certification process, or similar requirements under state family and medical leave laws. An employee would not, therefore, be able to refuse to provide an FMLA medical certification based on the GINA.
Once acquired, the GINA requires employers to maintain genetic or family medical information pursuant to the confidentiality provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The GINA grants employees and individuals remedies similar to those provided under Title VII and similar nondiscrimination laws, i.e., compensatory and punitive damages. It also provides that no person shall retaliate against an individual for opposing an act or practice made unlawful by GINA.
Comment: The GINA applies to all federal employees. To view the text of the law, see attached: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h110-493