Genetic Information Privacy—Know Your Rights


The Illinois Genetic Information Privacy Act, referred as GIPA, protects information about an individual’s genetic material. Recently, several lawsuits have been brought alleging that Illinois employers have violated GIPA by conducting pre-employment medical examinations of job applicants.

GIPA (410 ILCS 513 et seq.) was enacted by the Illinois Legislature in 1998, and was intended to protect an individual’s genetic information from being disclosed without consent or from being used in a discriminatory manner.

GIPA restricts Illinois employers from obtaining genetic information as a condition of employment; prohibits employment decisions based upon an individual’s genetic information; and bars retaliation against an employee who asserts a violation of the GIPA.

Ford Motor Company and Tyson Foods were recently sued in Illinois by job applicants who claimed that information about their family members, gathered during their medical exams, violated GIPA. In support of their claims, these employees cited GIPA which states that “Employers may not require genetic testing as a condition of employment, and may not use the results of genetic testing to affect the terms of employment, or use such information furtherance of a workplace wellness program.” The plaintiffs allege that the employers required job applicants to submit to a pre-employment physical as a condition of employment. During this physical, the plaintiffs claim that the medical provider asked them to disclose their families’ medical history, which they allege is a form of genetic information.

GIPA defines genetic information consistent with the federal statute (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act or GINA) which includes information such as an individual’s genetic tests, the genetic tests of family members, or a history of a certain disease or disorder in an individual’s family.
The GIPA also contains a damages provision allowing for $2,500 per negligent violation and $15,000 per intentional or reckless violation.

If your employer required that you undergo a medical examination prior to becoming employed, you may have a claim under GIPA. Please contact one of our attorneys at 312-357-1431 if you would like to have a free consultation to discuss your rights.

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