Discrimination Based on Genetic Information

The university does not discriminate against potential or current employees on the basis of their genetic information in regard to hiring, discharge, compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment. The university also does not discriminate on the basis of genetic information against any applicant/employee in the admission to or employment in any program established to provide apprenticeship or other training or retraining.          

What is “Genetic Information”?

Genetic information includes:

  • Information about an applicant/employee’s genetic tests (such as testing for a genetic predisposition or increased risk of certain cancers or other diseases, screening to determine risk of transmission of a gene to offspring, such as cystic fibrosis and paternity tests. Genetic testing does not include other medical tests, such as for HIV, cholesterol levels, blood glucose, tests for infectious disease or the presence of drugs or alcohol)

  • The genetic tests of an applicant/employee’s family members

  • Information about the manifestation of a disease or disorder in an applicant/employee’s family members (i.e. family medical history)

  • The request for, or receipt of, genetic services (tests, counseling, education) by the applicant/employee or a family member

  • Genetic information of a fetus carried by an applicant/employee or by a family member of the applicant/employee or of any embryo legally held by the applicant/employee or family member using an assisted reproductive technology

While diseases or disorders the applicant/employee has are not considered genetic information, the university does prohibit discrimination and harassment on the basis of disability, as described above. Information about age, gender, race and/or ethnicity also are not considered genetic information, although, as described above, the university prohibits discrimination and harassment on those bases as well.  

Rules Against Acquiring Genetic Information

In general, the law prohibits the university and those acting on the university’s behalf, such as supervisors, from requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information about applicants/employees. While the university generally only seeks genetic information in very limited circumstances, such as may be necessary to certify an FMLA request to care for a family member, there are six exceptions in the law that allow the university to obtain genetic information about an applicant/employee, briefly described
as follows:

  • When the genetic information is inadvertently acquired. This includes conversations in which an applicant/employee discloses genetic information about themselves or family members to a supervisor in response to general questions such as “How are you today?” or “Will your mom be okay?” This also includes conversations overheard by or unsolicited emails sent to a supervisor (e.g., “My mother has been diagnosed with cancer.”). If a supervisor asks the applicant/employee probing questions about the situation, such as “Have you been tested for that?” or “Do other members of your family have that?”, any responses that include genetic information would likely not be considered “inadvertently acquired.”

  • When the genetic information (such as family medical history) is obtained as part of voluntary health or genetic services, including wellness programs.

  • Family medical history that is acquired as part of the certification process for FMLA and similar leaves to care for a family member.

  • When the genetic information comes from sources that are commercially and publicly available, such as newspapers, books, magazines and electronic sources, as long as the genetic information is not searched for intentionally.

  • When the genetic information is acquired through a genetic monitoring program that is voluntary or required by law.

  • When the genetic information is acquired as part of DNA testing for law enforcement purposes as a forensic lab or for purposes of human remains identification.

Even when genetic information is lawfully obtained, the university does not permit the information to be used for discriminatory or harassing purposes. Such information is also maintained as confidential to the extent provided for by law.

Harassment Because of Genetic Information

In addition to not permitting discrimination on the basis of genetic information, the university does not tolerate harassment of an applicant/employee because of his or her genetic information. Harassment can include, for example, making offensive or derogatory remarks about an applicant/employee’s genetic information, or about the genetic information of a relative of the applicant/employee. Harassment consists of conduct (e.g., physical, verbal, graphic or written) that is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or results in an adverse employment decision (such as an employee being fired or demoted).

Where to go for Help

If you believe you are experiencing discrimination or harassment based on genetic information, you are encouraged to contact the appropriate university official (dean, director, HR Representative, etc.) and/or the Office of Institutional Equity (see contact information in Section XIX). There are also many resources on campus that provide assistance, support and information to individuals experiencing discrimination or harassment on the basis of genetic information. A list of these offices and a brief description of their services appear in Section XIX. If you are unsure which office to contact, contact the office that seems most appropriate, and that office will either assist you or help you make contact with a university office that can.