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What should I know about genetic discrimination?

Many forms of discrimination involve unfairly punishing someone due to the person's gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation. However, the increasing use of genetic information reveals another way that employers discriminate against current or prospective workers. It is important that Florida residents understand that their genetic information should never be used against them in hiring, firing or promotional decisions.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains that genetic information can include not just information about a person, but also describe the person’s family genetic history. If your employer was to gain access to this information and discover that members of your family through the years acquired a specific disease or ailment, your employer might conclude that you run the risk of manifesting the malady yourself. While this is not true of every employer, some might consider a worker to be at risk for a hereditary health issue and decide to fire the person or sanction the worker in some way.

However, as the EEOC explains, this form of discrimination is illegal. If a worker is currently healthy, there is no reason to penalize that worker simply for the potential to have health problems. The fact remains that the worker’s current ability to work is not affected by any revelation that the worker might manifest a disease or disability. It is even possible the worker may never develop the health issues addressed by the genetic family history of the worker.

The EEOC also explains that genetic information is heavily restricted. For this reason, if you are unfairly penalized by your employer, it could also be a sign that your privacy was breached and your information was leaked. Be aware that genetic information is very broad and does not just include genetic history, but also your personal requests for genetic information or the records of any genetic research you had engaged in. Women also have the right to protect the genetic information of their unborn fetuses or their embryos.

Be aware that this article is written only to educate readers on the topic of discrimination. It should not be taken as offering any legal advice.

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