Medical office settles probe over asking workers for relatives' COVID status

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REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Dermatology practice asked for family members' test results
  • U.S. agency says employer violated law banning questions about family medical history

(Reuters) - A Florida medical practice has agreed to stop asking its employees to provide their family members' COVID-19 test results to settle an investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which says the practice is illegal.

The EEOC on Wednesday said Brandon Dermatology in Tampa will also review its COVID-19 policies and provide back pay or restore leave time to affected workers.

The commission said that asking for employees' relatives' COVID test results violates the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which prohibits employers from asking employees medical questions about family members.

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The agreement with Brandon Dermatology came after an investigation by the commission, avoiding the need for the agency to file a lawsuit.

The practice did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Evangeline Hawthorne, the director of the EEOC's Tampa field office, said in a statement that the agreement illustrates the need for employers to review their COVID-19 policies and guidance released by the EEOC to ensure they are complying with federal law.

The EEOC in guidance released in September 2020 said GINA bars employers from asking workers whether their family members have COVID-19 or symptoms associated with the illness.

More recently, the EEOC said GINA does not prohibit employers from asking whether employees' relatives are vaccinated against COVID-19. A person's vaccination status is not part of the "family medical history" covered by GINA, the commission said.

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.