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What is genetic information?

On Behalf of | Oct 23, 2019 | workplace discrimination |

Some forms of discrimination, such as sex or racial discrimination, are widely known to the public. Workers in Pennsylvania and across the country, however, could also be subjected to a form of discrimination based upon their genetics. To know why an employer might discriminate against a person based on genetics, it helps to understand what genetic information is and how it can be misused.

The EEOC explains that genetic information encompasses a variety of information about the genetics of a person and his or her family members. As defined by the federal government, genetic information includes genetic testing conducted on a person. It can also include information about diseases and health conditions in the family history of the person. Generally, this information is used to figure out if someone stands a chance of manifesting a disease or other condition at a future date.

Genetic information also extends to reports and data derived from genetic testing or research. Some people participate in clinical testing or volunteer to be a part of research that looks for ways to treat a health condition. However, information derived from these tests can reveal genetic information about a participant, which the participant may want to remain private. Federal law also extends the definition of genetic information to include reports of family members who underwent clinical trials and information about fetuses if the worker is pregnant.

There are a number of reasons why a worker should be aware of his or her genetic information. An employer who gains access to it may determine that a worker is at risk of developing a disease or condition and limit promotion opportunities for the worker or fire the worker. This is a form of discrimination that federal law does not allow. Also, your genetic information should be private. If an unauthorized party has possession of it, it is a possible indication of a crime.

Federal law forbids genetic discrimination because information about your genetics is not relevant to your present ability to carry out your job. A worker whose employment is limited or terminated possible because of misuse of genetic information can benefit from speaking with an attorney. Keep in mind that this article is offered only for information and is no substitute for the legal advice an experienced attorney can provide.