Existing Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws and How They Apply to Genetics

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Existing Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws and How They Apply to Genetics

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and similar disability-based anti-discrimination laws such as the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, do not explicitly address genetic information, but they provide some protections in the workplace.

The Americans with Disabilities Act:

In March 1995, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an interpretation of the ADA. The guidance, however, is limited in scope and legal effect. It is policy guidance that does not have the same legal binding effect on a court, as does a statute or regulation, and it has not been tested in court.

According to the interpretation:

Top of page

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)

Federal Policy Recommendations Including HIPAA:

Top of page

HIPAA National Standards to Protect Patients' Personal Medical Records 2002

This regulation protects medical records and other personal health information maintained by health care providers, hospitals, health plans, health insurers, and health care clearinghouses. The regulation was mandated when Congress failed to pass comprehensive privacy legislation (as required by HIPAA) by 1999. The new standards: limit the nonconsensual use and release of private health information; give patients new rights to access their medical records and to know who else has accessed them; restrict most disclosure of health information to the minimum needed for the intended purpose; establish new criminal and civil sanctions for improper use or disclosure; and establish new requirements for access to records by researchers and others. These standards are not specific to genetics; rather they are sweeping regulations governing all personal health information.

Top of page

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Top of page

Last Reviewed: February 28, 2012