Home Care Agency To Pay $125,000 Over ‘Genetic Discrimination’ Charges

A home care agency based in New York will pay the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) $125,000 to settle a genetic discrimination lawsuit that was filed after the company was found in violation of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA).

BNV Home Care Agency, Inc., which provides companionship and home care services for seniors in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and Westchester, unlawfully asked its employees and applicants for genetic information by asking them questions about their family medical history on one employee health assessment form, according to a press release issued last week from the EEOC.

“Forcing employees and applicants to provide genetic information in order to maintain or obtain their jobs is clearly against federal law, and EEOC will continue to combat this form of discrimination,” Judy Keenan, acting New York district director of the EEOC, said the release.

The lawsuit was originally filed in September 2014 by the EEOC.

The company had been violating GINA since at least November 21, 2009, the agency charged. BNV allegedly asked employees to “indicate illness experienced by you or your family” by checking “yes” or “no” on a list of 29 health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, mental illness and cancer on an employee health assessment form, according to court documents.

“Employers should take heed of this settlement, because there are tangible consequences to unlawfully asking employees and applicants about their family medical history, which has been prohibited since the enactment of GINA in 2008,” Jeffrey Bursting, New York district office regional attorney at the EEOC, said in the press release.

GINA protects individuals against discrimination based on genetic information, including family medical history by employers.

BNV signed a consent decree to settle the lawsuit, which requires the company to pay the $125,000 to a group of current BNV employees who were asked questions about their genetic information on the company’s health assessment form. The company will also be required to remove questions about genetic information from its assessments as well as conduct anti-discrimination training, according to the press release.

The consent decree also states that BNV will be required to permit EEOC to monitor compliance of the other provisions for three years. If after three years the company doesn’t violate the terms of the decree, it will expire.

BNV will not admit to any wrongdoing in this case, court documents say.

Written by Alana Stramowski

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