The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), effective November 21, 2009, prohibits employers from requesting or requiring genetic information of employees or their family members. ‘Genetic information,’ as defined by GINA, includes an individual’s family medical history, the results of an individual’s or family member’s genetic tests, the fact that an individual or an individual’s family member sought or received genetic services, and genetic information of a fetus carried by an individual or an individual’s family member or an embryo lawfully held by an individual or family member receiving assistive reproductive services. There is an exception for the inadvertent or accidental acquisitions of genetic information — the so-called “water cooler” exception — when an employer might accidentally overhear coworkers discussing health issues.
GINA prohibits employers from using genetic information to make decisions regarding employment, hiring, promotion, terms or conditions of employment, privileges of employment, compensation or termination. It also prohibits classifying, or depriving an individual or employment opportunities on the basis of genetic information.
Violations of GINA can result in compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and injunctive relief including reinstatement and hiring, back pay, and other equitable remedies. A willful violation of GINA shall be punishable by a fine of not more than $100 for each separate offense. U.S.C. § 216(e).