People sitting in a meeting at work, 23andMe, and Illinois’ Genetic Information Privacy Act

By Pasha Vaziri
Attorney At Law

This past fall, the Chicago Tribune’s popular “Ask Amy” advice column answered two different letters from at-home DNA test kit users who discovered hidden secrets about their family. A man discovered one of his sons wasn’t biologically his, and a woman found out her parents conceived her with the assistance of a sperm donor

As the results of all the DNA test kits given as gifts start to roll in, other families may be in for similar surprises. According to NBC news, a growing number of people find out they have biological family members they were previously unaware of thanks to the growing popularity of at-home DNA test kits. 

The companies that make and market at-home genetic tests tend to downplay the fact that their tests often reveal more than where someone’s relatives immigrated from. This raises many ethical questions that we as a society are just beginning to wrestle with. 

Illinois Employment Law Provides Limited Protection of Genetic Information

One of the few areas where policymakers have stepped in to protect the privacy of those who choose to get DNA testing is in the employment context. The federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and Illinois’ Genetic Information Privacy Act (GIPA), protect individuals from employment discrimination related to their genetic information.

Except in a few limited circumstances, both laws prohibit employers from using genetic information to make decisions about any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, or any other term or condition of employment.

Under both laws, “genetic information” includes not only the results of DNA testing, but also information about a worker’s family medical history. This means employers cannot ask about a person’s family medical history when conducting post-offer or fitness-for-duty examinations.

Take Action To Protect Your Most Personal Information 

Your genetic information should be aggressively protected because it is the core building block of what makes you, you. If you believe you are being discriminated against because of your family medical history or the results of a genetic test, Vaziri Law’s experienced employment discrimination team can evaluate your situation and help you decide whether to take action under state and/or federal law.

Illinois’ GIPA applies to all employers operating in our state, and gives the victims of alleged violations the ability to file a lawsuit against their employer in state court. The federal GINA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and requires potential victims to file an initial complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It may be possible to file a complaint against your employer under both GINA and GIPA depending on the facts in your case. 

Fueled by Passion. Built on Trust. 

Whether you decide to explore your family’s history by taking an at-home DNA test, it should have no impact on your current or future employment. Chicago area employees who believe their employer has violated GINA or GIPA should contact Vaziri Law LLC immediately. We will not stand by as your privacy is violated or let your current ability to work be dictated by your DNA.

About the Author
Attorney Pasha Vaziri received his Juris Doctor from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago and focuses on personal injury and insurance law cases for clients in the Chicago area. Pasha founded Vaziri Law LLC in 2014 with a focus on the following practice areas: business litigation, class and collective actions, employment litigation, and injury litigation. As an attorney, he strives to achieve your objectives as efficiently as possible. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Mr. Vaziri through our contact page.