Florida Medical Practice Settles EEOC COVID-Related Genetic Discrimination Case

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

July 12, 2022

A Tampa Bay, Florida, medical practice will compensate affected employees and provide other relief to resolve a COVID-19-related Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) claim filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Brandon Dermatology had asked its employees to provide information about the COVID-19 test results of their family members. However, an EEOC investigation found that request violated federal antidiscrimination law.

GINA prohibits employers from requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information about applicants or employees and their family members, except under very narrow circumstances, which did not apply in this instance. The law defines "genetic information" to include the manifestation of a disease or disorder in an employee's family members.

Under the agreement with the EEOC, the medical practice will restore leave time or back pay to affected employees, as well as pay compensatory damages. The agreement also requires Brandon Dermatology to review its COVID-19 policies, conduct training on EEO laws as pertaining to COVID-19, and post a notice in the workplace.

The EEOC's findings and the agreement underscore the importance of employers understanding GINA's prohibition against collecting genetic information. Although EEOC guidance makes clear that employers may not ask whether an employee's family members have COVID or COVID symptoms, it does permit an employer to ask if relatives are vaccinated against COVID because vaccination status is not a part of the family medical history under GINA.

Several experts have advised employers that are screening for COVID exposure to ask if an employee has been exposed to anyone with COVID or COVID symptoms, rather than limiting the information to just family members.