Decision: In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Grisham Farm Products, Inc., the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri entered a consent judgment finding that a farm products company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The company required job applicants to fill out a three-page health history which asked the applicants to disclose if they had any of 27 health conditions (varying from allergies to sexually transmitted diseases) and whether they had consulted a doctor, therapist or other health care provider within the past 24 months and to identify “any future diagnostic testing” recommended or discussed by their health care provider. The EEOC brought suit on behalf of a retired law enforcement officer with disabilities who was deterred from applying for a job at the company’s warehouse after refusing to complete the form. The questions regarding health conditions were deemed to violate the ADA because they were phrased in terms of disability. The questions regarding health care provider consultations violated GINA because they would require an applicant without a manifested disease who has previously consulted about that disease because of family history/risk factors to reveal such information (which may not be solicited under GINA). The company is to pay the applicant $10,000 and may be monitored by the EEOC for the next five years.
Impact: While employers may request information relating to an applicant’s ability to perform job-related functions, employers must be careful that those requests are not phrased in ways that may be claimed to violate the ADA or GINA. Specifically, applicant questionnaires should avoid requesting information about disabilities or non-manifested diseases or including questions that could be interpreted as requesting such information, even if not explicitly doing so.