Employers, EEOC Settle Lawsuit Alleging Illegal Medical, Genetic Questioning of Job Applicants

Save yourself the legal hassle by not asking job applicants about their medical history or that of their families. Otherwise, you are practically begging for scrutiny and a lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Job applicants at three Southern California companies won’t have to undergo any more physical examinations or answer questions about their medical and genetic histories, under settlement terms the EEOC announced on Monday.

According to the EEOC, the companies, which provide seed and fertilizers, violated the ADA and GINA by subjecting a class of job applicants to illegal genetic and medical condition questions.

The EEOC charged that the El Centro, Calif.-based agricultural companies (which operated as a single employer) required job applicants to undergo physical exams and fill out health questionnaires as a condition of employment that violates federal laws.  According to the EEOC, the questionnaires contained improper inquiries about the applicants’ medical conditions and family medical histories, also known as genetic information.

At least one applicant was denied hire as a result, the EEOC said. At least three additional class members underwent similar inquiries, despite ultimately being hired, it charged. Furthermore, the companies failed to adequately maintain the confidentiality of the medical and genetic information, permitting such information to be unlawfully commingled with non-confidential personnel files, according to the EEOC.

The companies agreed to settle the lawsuit for $187,500 and take other steps to prevent future violations, including making sure that the companies’ policies and procedures are revised to comply with the ADA and GINA, and that the policies are available in both English and Spanish.

Read more about the settlement here.

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