The employment law blogs have been filled over the past two years with discussions about mandatory COVID-19 testing. However, not many employers have attempted to require employees to have their family members tested for COVID-19 or to provide those test results. While such testing may make a certain amount of sense in terms of disease prevention, a new settlement announced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) demonstrates the dangers of this approach.
The EEOC announced that it has entered into a settlement agreement with a Tampa medical provider that allegedly collected employees’ family members’ COVID-19 test results. The agency contended that this practice violated provisions of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA), which generally prohibits employers from asking employees about their family medical history. Genetic information is broadly defined as any disease an employee’s family suffers.
The settlement announced by the EEOC requires the employer to cease this practice and to provide reimbursement of leave time used to gather this information along with compensatory damages. GINA claims are relatively unusual compared to other civil rights laws enforced by the EEOC. However, this settlement shows employers that attempts to extend some COVID-19 protocols to family members could result in significant legal claims.