You may have heard about homeowners’ associations and towns demanding DNA tests when a pooch does his business on someone else’s lawn or in a public park. That’s fine for canines and their owners. But when an employer tried the same thing, the law intervened.
GINA, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees based on their unique genetic makeup. The law bars forced genetic testing.
And that’s how a Georgia employer just got zapped with the first ever jury award under GINA—to the tune of over $2 million. Here’s how it happened.
Atlas Logistics Group operates a warehouse in Georgia. Managers were frustrated when piles of human waste began showing up on the warehouse floor. Yes, that kind of human waste, the kind that can form a pile.
Forklift driver Jack Lowe and his co-worker Dennis Reynolds were the prime suspects. They were told to submit to cheek swabs to find out if their genes matched those of the evidence found in the warehouse.
Lowe claimed that as soon as word got around that he was a suspect and had been swabbed, the ridicule began.
Both men were cleared. Genetically speaking, their spit did not match the … well, you get the idea.
Then Lowe and Reynolds sued, alleging that the forced testing violated GINA’s prohibitions against genetic testing in the workplace. A federal judge in Atlanta concluded the testing violated the law and a jury determined the employer owed the men $2,225,000.
Take GINA seriously
If you aren’t up to date on GINA and the EEOC’s regulations, now is a good time to review the basics. The EEOC, which has received 700 GINA complaints and resolved 600 since 2008, has an excellent summary and a FAQ on its website.
Final note: Check with your attorney before ordering any testing that may reveal genetic information.