Monthly Archives: September 2013

September 11, 2013

Family Medical History Request Results in First EEOC GINA Lawsuit

By Dora Lane

Employers may not request a family medical history from employees or applicants, even as part of a post-offer medical examination.  In its first lawsuit alleging a violation of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued an employer whose contracted medical examiner required applicants to complete a family medical history questionnaire.  EEOC v. Fabricut, Inc., No. 13-cv-248 (N.D. Okla. filed May 7, 2013).  Review of this case offers a timely opportunity for employers to review their employment practices for compliance with GINA. 

Investigation of ADA Claim Finds Illegal Family Medical History 

Temporary employee, Rhonda Jones, worked for Fabricut, a distributor of decorative fabrics, as a memo clerk for 90 days.  She then applied to work in the same position as a regular employee.  Fabricut made her an offer of employment, contingent on the results of a pre-employment drug test and physical.  Fabricut sent Jones to Knox Laboratory, a medical examining facility that provided examination services to Fabricut on a contract basis.  As part of the process, Knox Laboratory instructed Jones to complete a questionnaire that asked about the existence of heart disease, hypertension, cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, arthritis and mental disorders in her family. 

The examiner conducting Jones’ pre-employment physical concluded that Jones may be predisposed to or already suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and recommended further evaluation.  Although Jones’ personal physician conducted a battery of tests and concluded that she did not have carpal tunnel syndrome, Fabricut withdrew its offer of employment.  Jones filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on grounds that she was denied employment because Fabricut regarded her as having a disability, carpal tunnel syndrome. 

As part of its investigation of Jones’ ADA claim, the EEOC obtained from Fabricut copies of Jones’ post-offer, pre-employment medical examination.  The records revealed the family medical history questionnaire that Jones had been instructed to complete at the start of her pre-employment physical.  Finding that the questionnaire included unlawful inquiries into genetic information, the EEOC notified Fabricut that its investigation would look into its compliance with GINA regarding its solicitation of family medical histories of applicants. 

EEOC Pursues GINA Lawsuit 

The EEOC filed suit against Fabricut in federal court alleging violations of both the ADA and GINA.  GINA, which took effect in 2009, makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or applicants because of genetic information, which includes family medical history, and restricts employers from requesting, requiring or purchasing such information, among other things.  The lawsuit alleges that Fabricut violated GINA by requesting and requiring Jones and other applicants to indicate whether or not they had a family medical history for a variety of diseases and disorders as part of its post-offer, pre-employment medical examination as conducted for Fabricut by its agent, Knox Laboratory, who then provided the information to Fabricut for its use in hiring and employment decisions. 

Lawsuit Settled for $50,000 and Additional Relief 

Without admitting any violation of law, Fabricut agreed to settle the case for payment of $50,000 to Jones as compensatory damages.  The settlement also requires Fabricut to post notices in its workplace stating that Fabricut will comply with all federal employment laws, including the ADA and GINA, conduct two hours of live training for all management and human resources personnel, create or revise personnel policies prohibiting discrimination and be subject to monitoring and reporting requirements for two years. 

Review Practices for GINA Compliance 

Although GINA has been in effect since 2009, many employers may not be familiar with its requirements and prohibitions.  What may have been routine employment practices in past years, such as collecting a family medical history from employees or applicants, may now be unlawful under GINA.  Employers should review their job applications, interview questions and any employment medical testing practices to ensure that no family medical history is requested.  The regulations implementing GINA specifically state that a covered entity must tell health care providers not to collect genetic information, including family medical history, as part of a medical examination used to determine an individual’s ability to perform a job.  29 C.F.R. § 1635.8(d).  In addition, if an employer finds out that family medical histories are being collected, it must take reasonable measures, including not using the health care provider, to prevent the information from being collected in the future. 

Under certain circumstances, employers may receive genetic information that it did not request.  Such inadvertent acquisition of genetic information is not a violation of GINA.  To help establish that genetic information was acquired inadvertently, employers should take advantage of a safe harbor provision in the GINA regulations.  When an employer needs to request health-related information, such as to support a request for sick leave or a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, the employer should warn the employee and the health care provider not to provide genetic information.  The regulations suggest the following language to accompany the request for health-related information: 

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits employers and other entities covered by GINA Title II from requesting or requiring genetic information of an individual or family member of the individual, except as specifically allowed by this law. To comply with this law, we are asking that you not provide any genetic information when responding to this request for medical information. "Genetic information," as defined by GINA, includes an individual's family medical history, the results of an individual's or family member's genetic tests, the fact that an individual or an individual's family member sought or received genetic services, and genetic information of a fetus carried by an individual or an individual's family member or an embryo lawfully held by an individual or family member receiving assistive reproductive services.

When employers provide this warning, any resulting acquisition of genetic information will generally be considered inadvertent and therefore, not in violation of GINA.

Disclaimer: This article is designed to provide general information on pertinent legal topics. The statements made are provided for educational purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between you and Holland & Hart LLP. If you have specific questions as to the application of the law to your activities, you should seek the advice of your legal counsel.

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September 3, 2013

OFCCP Announces New Veterans and Disability Regulations for Contractors

By Brad Cave 

OFCCP-logoLast week, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced Final Rules that are intended to improve job opportunities for disabled workers and veterans.  Whether the rules will accomplish that purpose is uncertain; what is clear is that the new rules greatly increase affirmative action requirements and burdens on federal contractors.    Under the new regulations, federal contractors and subcontractors face significantly increased documentation, data collection, recordkeeping and hiring goals. 

Key Provisions of New Disability and Veterans Regulations 

On August 27, 2013, OFCCP released the content of its Final Rules that change the regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act as amended by the Jobs for Veterans Act of 2002 (VEVRAA).  Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination in employment decisions against individuals with disabilities and requires federal contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote and retain disabled workers.  VEVRAA prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against protected veterans and requires affirmative action in employing these veterans.  The key provisions of the Final Rules that change the regulations implementing these laws include: 

  • A 7% Utilization Goal for Qualified Individuals with a Disability.  For the first time, contractors must strive to employ disabled workers at a level that reaches 7% of each job group.  For contractors with 100 or fewer employees, the 7% goal applies to the contractor’s entire workforce, rather than each job group.  OFCCP states that this is not a quota and failure to meet the disability utilization goal will not, by itself, constitute a violation of the regulation.  However, OFCCP requires contractors to conduct an annual utilization analysis to find deficient areas and determine specific actions to rectify identified problems.


  • Establishing Hiring Benchmarks for Veterans.  Without setting a specific utilization goal for hiring veterans, OFCCP will require federal contractors to establish hiring benchmarks each year for protected veterans.  Contractors may choose to use the national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force, as updated annually by OFCCP (currently 8%), as a benchmark, or may establish their own benchmark using a combination of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Veterans’ Employment and Training Service and the contractor’s unique hiring circumstances.


  • Collect and Retain Comparison Data on Disabled and Veteran Applicants and Employees.  Under the Final Rules, contractors must document quantitative comparisons of the number of disabled workers and veterans who applied for jobs and the number hired.  The data must be compiled annually and retained by the contractor for three years in order to track trends and measure outreach efforts.


  • Ask Applicants and Employees to Self-Identify as Individuals with a Disability and as a Veteran.  The Final Rules mandate that employers invite applicants at both the pre-offer and post-offer stage to self-identify themselves as individuals with a disability and as veterans.  The Final Rules further require that contractors invite their current employees to self-identify at least every five years.  OFCCP offers sample self-identification language.


  • Mandated Equal Opportunity Clause in Subcontracts.  Under the Final Rules, contractors must include specific language to incorporate the equal opportunity clause into subcontracts so that subcontractors know their responsibilities as federal contractors.


  • Provide OFCCP Access to Records.  The Final Rules specify that contractors must allow OFCCP to review documents related to a focused review or compliance check either on-site or off-site, at OFCCP’s option.  OFCCP can request that contractors reveal all formats in which they maintain records and then request the records in whatever format OFCCP chooses.


  • Updates to Comply with the ADAAA.  The  Final Rule related to the disability regulations updates the regulations in light of the revised definition of “disability” and certain nondiscrimination provisions under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA).


Still Burdensome, But Some Proposals Slightly Watered Down  

Federal contractors were critical of the many regulatory changes first proposed by the OFCCP in 2011.  OFCCP received many comments in response to the proposed rules and made some modest improvements based on those comments.  For example, the proposed rules sought to impose a five-year recordkeeping requirement.  The Final Rules reduced that requirement to three years.  The proposed disabilities rule sought to require contractors to review their physical and mental job qualifications on an annual basis while the Final Rule allows contractors to establish their own schedule for reviewing job qualifications.  Despite these and other small revisions from the proposed to the final regulations, the Final Rules add significant burdens on contractors who must revamp their employment policies and documentation practices to comply with the new regulations.

So, Are You Sure You’re Not Disabled? 

The new hiring quota for disabled individuals places employers in a very awkward position.  For the first time, employers are required to ask and need to know whether applicants and employees consider themselves to be disabled.  Under these rules, employers are expected to meet the 7% “goal” by workgroup.  But some employees who meet the definition of disabled will not consider themselves to be disabled or be reluctant to disclose their status to their employer.  The OFCCP recognized that a study has shown that only about 50% of those with disabilities are likely to self-identify.  The OFCCP is not concerned about this high degree of inaccuracy.  According to its preamble to the new rules, even inaccurate data which greatly underreports the number of disabled applicants and employees will still assist the contractor and the OFCCP to evaluate the contractor’s hiring and selection process!  Stated differently, the OFCCP does not care if the data is faulty by as much as 50% as long as it has some data on which to base its enforcement decisions. 

The OFCCP also suggested that employers should designate individuals as disabled, even if they decline to self-identify, where the disability is obvious or the employer knows about the disability.  Of course, for years we have cautioned employers to never label an employee as disabled to avoid “regarded as” claims under the ADA.   Now, employers who are federal contractors will have an incentive to identify employees as disabled to meet the goal, and have the OFCCP’s permission to do so.  In an interesting twist, the OFCCP’s permission for employers to designate employees as disabled was explained in the preamble to the new rule, not in the new regulations.   Since the preamble does not have the force and effect of law, the OFCCP’s permission is not likely to have much value as a defense to an employee’s allegation that the employer regarded them as disabled when the employer designates the employee for purposes of complying with this rule.  While federal contractors may have little choice if a disabled employee declines to self-identify, it will continue to be very important for employers to keep all such designations strictly confidential and out of the hands of supervisors and managers. 

Effective Date of the Disability and Veterans Affirmative Action Final Rules 

The Final Rules become effective 180 days after they are officially published in the Federal Register which is expected to occur in the next two weeks.  Consequently, contractors have about six months to get policies and procedures in place to comply with the new regulations.  Contractors subject to written affirmative action plan requirements are allowed to continue with the plan they have in place on the effective date of the Final Rules.  However, the next cycle of their affirmative action plan must be drafted to comply with the new regulations. 

OFCCP will be hosting webinars on the new regulations.  Information about the webinars and the Final Rules may be found on the OFCCP website:

Disclaimer:This article is designed to provide general information on pertinent legal topics. The statements made are provided for educational purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship between you and Holland & Hart LLP. If you have specific questions as to the application of the law to your activities, you should seek the advice of your legal counsel.

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