Workplace Inclusion

Genetic Information (including family medical history)

You have the responsibility to ensure equal opportunity for workers.

You must treat job applicants as well as current employees equally, regardless of their genetic information, which includes family medical history. In general, this means you can’t: 

  • fire,
  • reject for a job or promotion,
  • give lesser assignments to,
  • force to take leave, or
  • otherwise negatively alter the terms and conditions of employment for an individual because of their genetic information. 


If you’re a covered employer, you can’t use genetic information (such as genetic tests of an individual or their family members, their family medical history, or their request for, or receipt of, genetic services such as genetic counseling) to make employment decisions. 


It is usually unlawful for you to learn about an individual’s genetic information. There are six narrow exceptions to this rule (i.e., situations where learning about genetic information is not unlawful), which include, but are not limited to, overhearing an employee talking about a family member’s health, reading about the health of an employee’s family member in the newspaper, or obtaining an employee’s family medical history as part of the process to certify leave under the law. It is also unlawful for you to disclose any genetic information you obtain, except in six very narrow circumstances (such as if an individual asks in writing for genetic information that is part of health or genetic services received from you, if disclosure is necessary for certifying eligibility for family leave laws, or in response to a court order that specifically requests genetic information). 


You must keep any genetic information you obtain in medical files that are separate from personnel files and treat these files as confidential medical records. 


You’re not allowed to discriminate against job applicants or current employees because of: 

  • their family medical history;
  • information from an individual’s or their family member’s genetic tests (such as a test to determine if someone has a gene indicating a predisposition to certain forms of breast cancer, or a test to determine the presence of genetic abnormalities in a fetus);
  • an individual’s or their family member’s request for, or receipt of, genetic services or participation in clinical research that includes genetic services; and
  • the genetic information of a fetus carried by an individual or their family member and the genetic information of any embryo legally held by the individual or their family member using assisted reproductive technology.


You may never use genetic information to make an employment decision because genetic information is not relevant to an individual’s current ability to work. 

We’re here to help.

We are committed to helping you understand your responsibilities as an employer. Many questions about your responsibilities may be answered by using the following elaws (Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses) Advisors:

For additional assistance, please contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):


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Need more information?

The elaws (Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses) Advisors are a set of online tools developed by the U.S. Department of Labor to help employees and employers understand their rights and responsibilities under federal employment laws.