June 17, 2019

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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Settlement Reminds Employers That Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) Prohibits Requesting Family Medical History

​While the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) has proven to be the least-litigated of the federal anti-discrimination laws, a recent settlement obtained by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) serves as reminder of the Act’s prohibitions.  In EEOC vs. Founders Pavilion Inc.(W.D.N.Y), the EEOC alleged that an employer violated GINA by asking for family medical history as part of pre-employment, return-to-work and annual medical exams of its employees.

According to EEOC officials, this lawsuit marked the third GINA lawsuit filed by the agency and the first lawsuit alleging that an employer engaged in systemic discrimination.  The consent decree entered by the parties provided that the employer would pay a total class award of $110,400 to compensate 138 company employees who were hired during a period where the company used a form that included a “Family History” section.

Previously, the EEOC accused Fabricut Inc., one of the world's largest distributors of decorative fabrics, of violating GINA when it asked a job applicant for her family medical history in a post-job-offer medical examination.  According to the EEOC’s suit, the employer violated both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and GINA.  As part of the settlement, the employer agreed to a $50,000 payment to the applicant and several preventative measures which included posting an anti-discrimination notice, distributing anti-discrimination policies to employees and providing anti-discrimination training to employees with hiring responsibilities.

While cases alleging GINA violations are few, these settlements serve not only as a reminder of GINA’s oft-forgotten existence, but also as a reminder for employers to review applications, leave forms and related documents to ensure there are no impermissible requests for medical history.  When in doubt, do not hesitate to seek the advice of employment counsel. 

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About this Author

Danielle Barbour Wilson, Litigation Attorney, Poyner Spruill Law Firm

Danielle’s practice is focused in the areas of Litigation and Employment Law. She represents private and public employers in a wide range of labor and employment matters. Danielle has assisted in defending putative class actions before federal district and appellate courts and defended claims against local government entities. She also advises clients regarding data protection and privacy issues.

Representative Experience

  • Defends employers in a wide range of employment litigation in both state and federal courts

  • ...
David L. Woodard, Employment Litigation Attorney, Poyner Spruill, Law firm

David practices in the area of employment litigation.  He regularly advises and defends clients in race, age, disability and sex discrimination and harassment cases; reviews handbooks and termination issues; and provides compliance advice on matters of employment law.

Representative Experience

McNeil v. Scotland County - Obtained summary judgment for employer where plaintiff alleged race discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as well as violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Successfully defended the judgment in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Williams v. City of Fayetteville - Obtained summary judgment on former employee’s claims of retaliation for exercising First Amendment rights, violations of due process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.