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What is genetic information employment discrimination?

On Behalf of | Mar 31, 2023 | Employees' Rights |

There are many ways for employers to discriminate against workers, and some of them are more subtle than others. Workers who have experienced genetic information discrimination may not even realize what happened to them. They simply went to a medical exam and then didn’t get the job or promotion they sought.

Employers sometimes require medical examinations as part of the hiring process. This is legal when there are demands related to the job that requires a certain level of physical fitness. Testing could include a physical examination to ensure people can handle strain or repetitive lifting and stress tests to ensure someone has suitable cardiac fitness for a high-demand profession.

That testing process does not automatically permit an employer to engage in a genetic screening of its workers nor does it allow employers to use the results of any genetic testing it did perform when making choices about people’s employment. Still, some companies may try to check a prospective or current worker’s medical reality beyond what the law allows. Considering someone’s genetics for hiring and ongoing employment purposes is a form of discrimination prohibited by federal employment laws.

How genetic discrimination works

If a company looks at a worker’s genetic profile, it would be possible to spot markers for future issues like a high risk of cancer or Alzheimer’s disease, which might ultimately mean someone leaves their position earlier than anticipated and also requires expensive medical care that might affect the company’s finances. Genetic information could also provide information about someone’s cultural background that wouldn’t be relevant to their suitability for a job.

Given that those genetic markers in no way influence someone’s current suitability for employment, considering their genetic predisposition toward any medical issue would be a form of discrimination. Someone’s genetics won’t affect how they do their job. With the exception of individuals who already have manifested an inherited condition expressed in their genetic code, the details of someone’s genetics would have very little bearing on whether or not they were able to sufficiently perform a job.

Therefore, employers have no justification for considering someone’s genetics when making decisions about who to hire, fire or promote. Any request for genetic testing could be suspect in an employment context. Those who believe their employers have engaged in discrimination, including genetic discrimination, could potentially take legal action to seek compensation.

Learning about the various forms of workplace discrimination can help people determine whether they have experienced employer misconduct. Speaking with a legal professional can also help them to clarify whether they have grounds upon to take meaningful legal action.


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