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When can employer request employee's genetic information?

Last month, this blog covered the fact that employers are not allowed to discriminate in employment decisions, including hiring, promotion or termination of employees based upon the employee's genetic information. You may recall that this is the result of a federal law called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). But, why might an Oklahoma employer have one's genetic information to begin with? It may seem a bit of a strange request, but there are some circumstances where it might happen.

GINA generally prohibits employers from requesting or purchasing genetic information of its employees. However, there are a few exceptions that may result in an employer receiving such information. First, such a request is not illegal if the employer does so inadvertently; that is, without intent to do so. Second, an employer may request such information if it is part of a health or wellness service it renders to employees. But this is legal only on certain conditions, such as that the employee knowingly and voluntarily agrees in writing, and that any identifiable information is known only to the employee and licensed health care providers, and any information the employer gets is only in the aggregate and cannot lead to identification of a specific employee.

The employer can also receive genetic information under certain provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, or if such information appears in public records such as newspapers or magazines. Finally, employers can gather genetic information on employees as part of a program to measure the effects of workplace toxins, but only when the employee gives knowing consent, such monitoring is required by law or regulation and complies fully with those regulations, the employee is given notice of the monitoring results, and the employer does not receive identifiable information on individual employees.

There are quite a few reason that a present-day employer might have some genetic information about its employees. Though the law generally prevents the employer from being able to identify any given employee from that information, it is not impossible that someone in the organization may be able to do so. It is important to remember that even if the information is received legally, discrimination based upon it is still illegal. People who have been wrongfully terminated or discriminated against by an employer, should seek out an experienced Oklahoma employment attorney.

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