Employers have the right to ask applicants and employees to undergo physical and mental evaluations to determine fitness for duty. At a health exam a physician will often ask about family history. While this is important for the health provider in making assessments and recommendations, this information does not need to be shared with employers and is not relevant to fit for duty exams. In fact, employers should state upfront that they do not want to receive any information that may be protected under GINA, unless otherwise lawfully allowed and applicable under a federal, state, or local law or in the course of voluntary wellness programs. It is not relevant to employers that an employee has a family history of breast cancer, genetic diseases, or diabetes.
What is relevant is whether the employee can perform the essential functions of the job either with or without accommodation. Employers should instruct health provider offices to not include family history or genetic information on the forms that are returned to the employer. In the event that the employer handles a large quantity of these medical forms, the employer should consider having someone, who is well versed in GINA, screen all forms when they come in to the employer prior to distribution to the appropriate department. This may apply to ADA, FMLA and other health forms as well.