Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act - Protecting the civilian workforce from unlawful discrimination

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Maurice Ingram
  • 509th Bomb Wing Equal Opportunity
What if you were denied employment with a federal agency or deprived of health coverage based on genetic information? Now genetic information is protected by federal law. In 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. What is genetic information? Genetic information is defined as a person's individual genetic tests, the genetic tests of that person's family members, or the knowledge of a disease or disorder based on family history.

This act states it is illegal to discriminate against civilian employees or applicants because of genetic information. The law forbids inequity on the basis of genetic information when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, or any other term or condition of employment. An employer may never use genetic information to make an employment decision because genetic information doesn't tell the employer anything about someone's current ability to work. GINA restricts acquisition of genetic information by employers and strictly limits the disclosure of genetic information. GINA was implemented within the public sector Jan 10, 2011.

Under GINA, it is also illegal to harass a person because of his or her genetic information. Harassment can include, for example, making offensive or derogatory remarks about an applicant or employee's genetic information, or about the genetic information of a relative of the applicant or employee. Harassment is illegal when it is so severe or pervasive that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). The alleged offender or responsible management official can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee, such as a client or customer.

In addition, it is illegal to fire, demote, harass, or otherwise "retaliate" against an applicant or employee for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding (such as a discrimination investigation or lawsuit), or otherwise opposing discrimination.

For additional information about GINA or other EO related issues, contact 509th BW EO at (660) 687- 5712/5737.

(Submission from the 509th BW/EO office).