Employer's search for 'devious defecator' backfires after suspects sue under genetic privacy law
A federal judge has ruled that a genetic privacy law protects two employees who submitted to DNA testing during their employer’s search for a “devious defecator” leaving piles of feces in a warehouse.
The two employees, Jack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds, sued after the test ruled them out as the source of the problem, the New York Times reports. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg of Atlanta ruled (PDF) on May 5 that the employer, Atlas Logistics Group Retail Services, violated the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. The Volokh Conspiracy noted the ruling, while the Atlanta law firm Barrett & Farahany has a blog story about its win.
Totenberg said Atlas violated a provision of the law that makes it “an unlawful employment practice for an employer to request, require, or purchase genetic information with respect to an employee.” Atlas had argued it wasn’t covered by the law because it used a DNA test that provided no information about predisposition to disease.
A lawyer for Atlas, Dion Kohler, told the Times that the company has not decided whether it will appeal. A jury trial on damages is scheduled to begin on June 17.
Most cases under the law involve suits over employers’ request for medical history, according to the Times. Experts told the newspaper they did not know of any other cases that went to trial.