Employer Allegedly Requested Applicant’s Family Medical History

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently agreed to settle its first lawsuit alleging discrimination under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The company, which also faced allegations of disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), agreed to pay $50,000 and to take other specified actions to prevent future bias.

The lawsuit was brought by the EEOC on the behalf of Rhonda Jones, a temporary worker at Fabricut, Inc. in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When her temporary assignment was coming to an end, Jones applied for a permanent position with the company. After making her a job offer, Fabricut sent Jones to its contract medical examiner for a pre-employment drug test and physical. She was required to complete a questionnaire, which among other inquiries asked about the existence of heart disease, hypertension, cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, arthritis, and “mental disorders” in her family.

Following her physical, the examiner concluded that further evaluation was required to determine whether Jones suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). At Fabricut’s request, Jones was evaluated by her personal physician who concluded that she did not have CTS. Nonetheless, the company rescinded the job offer.

GINA, which was signed into law in 2008, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or applicants because of genetic information (including family information). The federal law also restricts employers from requesting, requiring, or purchasing such information.

Fabricut denied any wrongdoing, noting that the family medical history was gathered by a third party and was not used in the employment decision. EEOC regional attorney Barbara Seely disagreed: “Although GINA has been law since 2009, many employers still do not understand that requesting family medical history, even through a contract (third-party) medical examiner, violates the law.”