It’s Probably a Bad Idea to Ask Applicants for a Family Medical History

By Jon Hyman

Jan. 14, 2014

According to this press release, a New York nursing and rehabilitation center will pay $370,000 to settle a genetic discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC claimed that the employer asked job applicants for a family medical history as part of its post-offer, pre-employment medical exams.

The Americans with Disabilities Act permits employers to conduct medical exams after an employer makes a conditional job offer, but before the employee starts work, as long the employer does so for all entering employees in the same job category. Whether or not an employer can gather a family medical history as part of this post-offer/pre-employment exam, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which prevents employers from requesting genetic information or making employment decisions based on genetic information, renders family-medical-history collection illegal.

Medical-related inquiries by employers are complicated and rife with risk. To ensure full compliance with the law, do not include questions about family histories in these examinations. Otherwise, in the words of EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry, “There are real consequences to asking applicants or employee for their family medical history. The EEOC will pursue these cases to the fullest extent of the law to ensure that such genetic inquiries are never made of applicants or employees.”

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. Comment below or email  For more information, contact Hyman at (216) 736-7226 or Follow Hyman on Twitter at @jonhyman.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at


blog workforce

We build robust scheduling & attendance software for businesses with 500+ frontline workers. With custom BI reporting and demand-driven scheduling, we help our customers reduce labor spend and increase profitability across their business. It's as simple as that.

Book a call
See the software

Related Articles

workforce blog


EEOC says that employers legally can offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated in almost all instances

If you’re an employer looking to get as many of your employees vaccinated as possible, you can rest eas...

ADA, CDC, COVID-19, EEOC, GINA, pandemic, vaccinated

workforce blog


Fixing some common misconceptions about HIPAA

Ever since the CDC amended its COVID-19 guidance to say that the fully vaccinated no longer need to wea...

COVID-19, health care, HIPAA, human resources, wellness

workforce blog


We are in the midst of a public mental health crisis; how employers can help

Do not ignore these issues or your employees who are living with them. Mental health illnesses are no d...

ADA, benefits, Coronavirus, FMLA, mental health, paid time off