Over 1,000 Job Applicants Subjected to Illegal Medical & Family Medical History Inquiries, Federal Agency Charged
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. and HONOLULU, Hawaii - One of the largest security companies in North America, Guardsmark, has agreed to settle disability and genetic information discrimination charges for monetary relief totaling $329,640, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today. The settlement of EEOC charges of discrimination impacts over 1,100 job applicants who were required to disclose their disabilities and/or family medical history.
Charges were filed with EEOC's Little Rock and Honolulu offices in 2011 and 2012 alleging that Guardsmark required job applicants to disclose their disabilities and/or family medical history, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). EEOC's investigation found that Guardsmark required applicants to complete questionnaires with questions pertaining to their medical condition and family medical history during the application process. Such pre-employment inquiries are prohibited under the ADA and GINA.
Without admitting liability, Guardsmark agreed to enter into a two-year conciliation agreement with EEOC and the alleged victims, thereby avoiding litigation. During the course of EEOC's investigation, Guardsmark ceased asking about genetic information and removed the questionnaires from the application process. Aside from the monetary relief, the company further agreed to remove prohibited medical inquiries in the application process. EEOC will monitor compliance with the agreement.
"Guardsmark has been cooperative in working with EEOC to resolve this charge without having to resort to litigation," said Katharine W. Kores, district director for EEOC's Memphis District, which includes Little Rock in its jurisdiction. "We commend Guardsmark's willingness to reassess and change their application process so that applicants and employees do not have to divulge such private personal medical information. We hope employers take note of this agreement, because EEOC will continue to actively pursue and enforce ADA and GINA."
Rosa M. Viramontes, district director for EEOC's Los Angeles District, which includes Honolulu in its jurisdiction, added, "Employers need to be mindful that asking questions relating to a job applicant's family medical history, medical condition and disability prior to hire is a violation of federal law that can negatively impact an applicant's prospects. Although charges were filed in different parts of the country, EEOC's Little Rock and Honolulu Offices worked collaboratively to settle this matter on behalf of over 1,100 job applicants."
Genetic information includes information about an individual's genetic tests and the genetic tests of an individual's family members, as well as information about the manifestation of a disease or disorder in an individual's family members (i.e. family medical history). GINA forbids discrimination on the basis of genetic information when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, or any other term or condition of employment. It is unlawful for an employer to ask, acquire or maintain such information.
Under the ADA, an employer may not ask disability-related questions and may not conduct medical examinations until after it makes a conditional job offer to the applicant. This helps ensure that an applicant's possible hidden disability (including a prior history of a disability) is not considered before the employer evaluates an applicant's non-medical qualifications. An employer may not ask disability-related questions or require a medical examination pre-offer even if it intends to look at the answers or results only at the post-offer stage.
Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov .