Law Office of Jeffrey D. Fulton

What is genetic information?

Federal law prohibits multiple forms of discrimination, including age, race, and sexual orientation, yet many California residents may not know that employers are also prohibited from using genetic information to discriminate against workers, or even understand what genetic information is. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, genetic information includes different aspects of a person’s genetic background.

First, genetic information can consist of certain medical information about a person. For example, if a person has undergone genetic testing, the results derived from these tests are considered genetic information. Additionally, if a person has participated in genetic services, data taken from these services is also classified as genetic information. Genetic information may also include an individual’s participation in clinical research that utilizes genetic services. 

An individual's genetic information can also apply to family members. This includes genetic testing or genetic services performed on family members. Genetic information may extend to the fetus of a family member, or a frozen embryo that is legally held by a member of the family using assisted reproductive means. Additionally, records that detail ailments and diseases of family members, also known as family medical history, is also part of a person’s genetic information since a family’s prior medical history can be used to figure out if a person is at added risk of a disease, a medical condition or other ailments at a later date.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 makes it clear that this information cannot be used by employers in making hiring decisions. Additionally, labor organizations, employments agencies, and other entities covered by Title II of GINA are restricted from making requests to see such information, as well as purchasing or requiring genetic information. This law also places strict limits on how genetic information can be disclosed.

This article is intended to inform about the topic of genetic information and should not be taken as legal advice.

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