by Jon Guze
Senior Fellow, Legal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Yesterday, in what U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg dubbed “the case of devious defecators,” jurors awarded $2.25 million dollars to Jack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds for the harm they suffered from having their DNA unlawfully obtained by their employers, Atlas Logistics Retail Services (Atlanta), LLC.
Seven years ago, Congress prohibited employers and insurers from discriminating against people with genes that increase their risks for costly diseases, but the case that experts believe is the first to go to trial under the law involves something completely different: an effort by an employer to detect employee wrongdoing with genetic sleuthing….
Frustrated supervisors at a warehouse outside Atlanta were trying to figure out who was leaving piles of feces around the facility. They pulled aside two laborers whom they suspected. The men, fearing for their jobs, agreed to have the inside of their mouths swabbed for a genetic analysis that would compare their DNA with that of the feces….
The two men were cleared — their DNA was not a match. They kept their jobs but sued the company. On May 5, Judge Totenberg ruled in favor of the laborers and set a jury trial for June 17 to decide on damages. She determined that even though the DNA test did not reveal any medical information, it nonetheless fell under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA.