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Genetic information can't be used for discrimination

With the passing of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, it became illegal for employers to discriminate against workers or potential workers based on the grounds of their genetic background, if this information was made available to the employer. This move added this discrimination to more well-known types such as age discrimination and racial discrimination.

This is often related to a person's medical history and/or the medical history of that person's family. For example, tests may show that a person is genetically more likely to develop a certain ailment over time. As long as the person does not have a condition that impacts his or her ability to work at the time, though, employers cannot use this information to make personnel decisions.

The law specifically says that discrimination can't impact any part of a person's employment. This comes into play before the person has even become an employee, as the data can't be used during the hiring process. After the person is hired, it can't be used to determine job assignments, pay, promotions, benefits, when the person will be fired, or anything else.

In addition, conduct in the workplace is also governed by this act, in the sense that harassment is not allowed when it is based around genetic information. While minor incidents -- like an offhand comment that was perhaps made accidentally -- are not typically an issue, the law seeks to stop a hostile work environment from being created.

If your genetic information was relayed to your employer or others in the workplace, and you were discriminated against because of it, it's important for you to understand that you have very real legal protections. You may be able to seek compensation, reclaim a job from which you were fired, or otherwise stand up for your rights in Michigan.

Source: EEOC, "Genetic Information Discrimination," accessed Aug. 22, 2016

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