Three Southern California seed and fertilizer providers – All Star Seed Inc., La Valle Sabbia and Abatti – have to pay a fine of $187,500 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The companies are fined on the grounds of a discrimination procedure which occurred during recruitment process when a number of job applicants were subjected to illegal medical and genetic inquiries. The EEOC said that the three companies demanded from applicants to undergo physical examinations and fill in questionnaires regarding their health. According to the EEOC, the questionnaire included improper queries about applicant’s medical conditions and health history of their families.
Marla Stern-Knowlton, director of the EEOC’s San Diego office, commented that “there are strict guidelines prohibiting inquiries into a job applicant’s medical condition and disability prior to hire”. She also stressed that “Even after hire, employers should avoid asking questions about an applicant’s medical condition if it is not job-related. With respect to genetic information — or family medical history — the law is even more restrictive in that most employers may never ask or acquire genetic information from applicants or employees.”
As a result of these illegal inquiries, at least one application is known to have been dismissed. Moreover, in 2010, a temporary worker applied for a full-time permanent dispatcher position in Long Beach but was informed that he would be considered for the position after taking physical examinations and drug tests. The person thus remained in his temporary position pending the results. The medical examination later revealed disability-related information and family medical history that was unrelated to the position. Based on these results, the temporary worker was not dismissed despite the fact that the prior condition had no relationship to his work that he was already successfully performing. At least three other applicants underwent similar situation. Moreover, the EEOC also informed that the three companies did not keep the confidentiality of the medical and genetic information adequately.