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EEOC accuses rehab center of genetic information discrimination


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a genetic information discrimination lawsuit against a New York nursing and rehabilitation center, alleging that it violated federal law by asking for genetic information during its hiring process.

The EEOC said Thursday that Founders Pavilion Inc. in Corning, N.Y., violated the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act when it asked job applicants for their family medical histories.

The EEOC also accused Founders of not accommodating probationary employees' disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that it fired one employee after refusing to accommodate her during her probationary period.

In addition, the EEOC suit accused Founders of refusing to hire two women because of perceived disabilities, a violation of ADA, and either refused to hire or fired three women because they were pregnant, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“GINA applies whenever an employer conducts a medical exam, and employers must make sure that they or their agents do not violate the law,” Elizabeth Grossman, the regional attorney for the EEOC's New York district office, said in a statement. “Here, not only did the employer ask for prohibited information, it also discriminated against individuals with disabilities or perceived disabilities as well as pregnant women.”

A Pavilion spokesman could not be reached for comment.


This is the second lawsuit filed by the EEOC under GINA. Earlier this month, the EEOC reached a $50,000 settlement with Tulsa, Okla.-based Fabricut Inc., a decorative fabrics distributor.

The company was accused of asking Rhonda Jones for her family medical history in its post-job offer medical examination. It also was accused of violating the ADA for refusing to hire Ms. Jones as a memo clerk because it regarded her as having carpal tunnel syndrome.

In a statement Friday, Fabricut denied that the job was withdrawn because of the carpal tunnel issue.

“Rather, Fabricut withdrew the employment offer due to statements made by (Ms.) Jones during the hiring process. Further, Fabricut did not use Jones’ family medical history in the employment decision. The family medical history was gathered by a third-party medical provider, not Fabricut.”

The company, which did not admit any wrongdoing and said it will comply with state and federal laws, said it decided to settle the suit “to avoid protracted and costly litigation.”

Observers have said it is only a matter of time before GINA, which was enacted in 2009, emerges as a litigation risk for employers.