Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees or applicants because of their genetic information. It applies to any aspect of employment including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, training, benefits and others.

It applies to an individual’s genetic information, but employees and applicants may not realize that it also extends to genetic information for their family members including family medical history. Family medical history is included because this information may be used to determine a person’s risk for diseases or future conditions.

Harassment

An employer cannot use genetic information to make an employment decision. It is also against the law for an employer to harass an employee based on genetic information. This may include offensive remarks and derogatory statements.

Harassment is defined as behavior that is so pervasive that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision, such as firing or demoting the victim. It does not generally include offhand comments or isolated incidents, although this may depend on the circumstances of the incident.

Also, the harasser could be the employee’s supervisor but doesn’t have to be. The harasser could be a co-worker, a different supervisor, a customer, client or other non-employee.

Retaliation

The employer also cannot retaliate against an employee for filing a discrimination charge. Retaliation could include firing, demotion and harassment, for example.

If an employee has been discriminated against, harassed or retaliated against for his or her genetic information, an experienced attorney can help. Employees should know that they have options to address it under the law.