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The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) became effective on November 21, 2009. GINA’s purpose is to prevent employers from discriminating against individuals based on genetic tests and information.

Genetic information covered by the Act includes information about an individual’s genetic tests and the genetic tests of an individual’s family members, as well as information about a disease or disorder of an individual’s family members. The Act largely restricts an employer’s access to genetic information in the first place, but, in the event genetic information is obtained, employers are prohibited from using it to make employment decisions, such as hiring, promotions, demotions and terminations. The Act also prohibits harassment based on genetic information, much like other protected classifications, and strictly limits the disclosure of genetic information. As with the Americans with Disabilities Act, any genetic information that is acquired by an employer must be maintained in a separate medical file.

One thing employers can do right away to comply with GINA and avoid potential penalties is to update their employment law posters. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has recently updated its EEO poster to include information about GINA. Employers may order or print the poster from the EEOC’s website.

Prudent employers will make sure their posters are up to date and educate supervisors about what genetic information is and how to safeguard it.

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