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Genetic discrimination? - New claim on the block

Not everyone in America has it easy when it comes to day-to-day tasks. It can be hard for many people to imagine what it must be like to live with a disability, especially if it is a serious condition that has a dramatic effect on a person's quality of life. However, some conditions that many Colorado residents would probably consider to be "minor" can also be classified as disabilities. That was the case in a recent lawsuit in a neighboring state, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pursued a claim against a company based on alleged discrimination against a potential employee over concerns that she may have had carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition, especially in today's society where many people work on a computer all day. The condition arises when there is pressure on the median nerve in the wrist, which can cause irritation, numbness and pain. Most people probably wouldn't consider this to be a seriously debilitating condition, but in the recent lawsuit the EEOC asserted that refusing to hire a person because they may have the condition constituted a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The claim was settled in this case, to the tune of $50,000.

Further, the EEOC reported that this was the first known case of what they termed "genetic discrimination." Attention was focused on this woman's physical health as part of a pre-employment medical screening. The medical evaluators apparently indicated that while the woman didn't actually have carpal tunnel syndrome, she may have been predisposed to developing the condition. The hiring company subsequently declined to offer the woman employment. This was the root of the discrimination claim.

This may seem subtle or even relevant considering that the woman was applying for an administrative position, but discrimination can still occur under these circumstances. And when it does, it is the employer who must pay the price for their actions.

Source: Tulsa World, "Local company settles genetic discrimination lawsuit," David Harper, May 7, 2013

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