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Employers can’t hire or fire based on genetic information

As more and more is learned about human DNA and genetic information, it becomes more clear that certain people may be genetically predisposed to contract certain diseases and ailments. This is important information for the medical community, which can help them both understand and potentially treat some of these diseases.

One of the downsides of having this information on file, though, is that employers may be tempted to use it when hiring or firing employees. If one employee appears more likely to get sick than another, that could sway a decision.

Since the person cannot do anything about his or her own genetic information, hiring and firing on these grounds is seen as discrimination — the same as hiring someone based on skin color or gender. As such, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 was passed, making it illegal for employers to make their decisions based on this information.

Examples of diseases that could be linked to genetic information include serious ailments like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Genetic testing is becoming more and more common in the medical community as a way of staving off these issues and helping people get treatment as soon as possible. However, experts do note that it’s important to remember that genetic information does not guarantee that these diseases will be an issue in all cases, but just reflects some level of elevated risk, so employers should not — and now, legally cannot — overreact to this data.

If your genetic information may have played a role in your being fired, being discriminated against in the workplace, or not being hired to begin with, you need to know your legal rights. Don’t just assume that employers can use this information in New Jersey, even if it’s in your records.

Source: Genome, “Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008,” accessed Aug. 24, 2016

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