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Spotting genetic discrimination in the workplace

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2024 | Workplace Discrimination |

Genetic discrimination in the workplace occurs when an employee or job applicant is mistreated because of their genetic information. This form of discrimination can affect hiring decisions, promotions, job assignments and other employment practices. 

Although this form of workplace mistreatment is less commonplace than many others, it is becoming increasingly relevant in a world wherein people are more and more aware of what their genetic makeup is and what it can mean both in terms of health and identity. As such, recognizing the signs of unlawful genetic discrimination can be important when it comes to protecting your rights and better ensuring fair treatment. The following are some of the most common concerns that serve as red flags in this regard.  

Unjustified medical inquiries

One of the first signs of potential genetic discrimination is when an employer makes inappropriate or unnecessary inquiries about your genetic information. Under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), employers are prohibited from requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information about employees or job applicants. If an employer asks about your family medical history or requires genetic testing without a legitimate reason, this could be a red flag.

Unequal treatment 

If you notice that you are being treated differently or unfairly compared to your colleagues after disclosing genetic information to your employer (or suspect that they have come upon such information despite the fact that you didn’t disclose it voluntarily), this could indicate discrimination. Unequal treatment may involve being passed over for promotions, receiving negative performance reviews without justification or being excluded from work-related activities. 

Another indicator of genetic discrimination involves sudden and unjustified changes in job assignments or responsibilities. If your employer reassigns you to a less desirable position, reduces your hours or changes your duties after learning about your genetic information, this may be a discriminatory act. 

Denial of benefits

If you are denied health insurance or other employment benefits because of your genetic information, this constitutes genetic discrimination. Employers are prohibited from using genetic information to make decisions about insurance eligibility or premiums. If you experience denial of benefits or increased insurance costs after disclosing genetic information, this is a significant red flag.

Spotting genetic discrimination in the workplace isn’t always easy. If you aren’t sure of whether your experience constitutes unlawful mistreatment, don’t hesitate to seek personalized guidance and support.

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