The New York Times reports on a possible case of genetic discrimination in employment, which is prohibited by federal law. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (Pub. L. 110-233), which was signed in May 2008 by President Bush, restricts the collection and use of genetic information in a number of ways. GINA prohibits health insurance providers and employers from requiring genetic testing. Genetic data cannot be used to determine insurance premiums, eligibility for insurance, or employment.
The Times reports that, because her two sisters had breast cancer and a genetic test showed that she had a disposition for the disease, Pamela Fink decided to have a preventive double mastectomy.
When she returned from surgery, she said, her company started giving her fewer responsibilities, then demoted her and ultimately fired her.
This week she filed one of the first complaints claiming illegal dismissal under a new federal law that prohibits employers from considering someone’s genetic background in firing, hiring or promotions.
The complaint that Ms. Fink filed this week with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission raises new questions about when and whether employers can fire or demote employees when they learn the employees’ genetic information. […]
Peggy R. Mastroianni, the commission’s associate legal counsel, said most of the 80 complaints filed since the genetic law took effect five months ago seemed to involve cases in which employers had improperly acquired or disclosed genetic information. But Ms. Fink’s case alleges a more serious offense: an improper firing because of it.
Her lawyers say that if she loses her case, it could discourage other workers from going for genetic testing about particular illnesses and from having surgery in response to such testing — steps that are good for their health.