Woman With Breast Cancer Gene Files First Genetic Discrimination Lawsuit In U.S.

Photo: CIAT via Flickr (CC)

Photo: CIAT via Flickr (CC)

Can you be fired for having bad genes? For the first time, the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act is being tested. Ewen Callaway at New Scientist writes:

In what may be the first US case of genetic discrimination since Congress banned the practice in 2008, a Connecticut woman claims she lost her job because she has a gene that predisposes her to breast cancer.

She and her lawyers filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

They allege that her employer, a utility company called MXenergy, violated a new federal law that protects people against genetic discrimination by employers and insurance companies, reports the Associated Press (AP).

Pamela Fink, a 39-year-old woman from Fairfield, Connecticut, alleges that she lost her job at MXenergy after she told the company that she had a mutation in a gene called BRCA2 that is linked to a greatly increased risk of breast cancer.

As a precautionary measure, Fink had both her breasts removed – a common measure taken by women positive for some mutations in BRCA2 and its sister gene BRCA1. When she returned to MXenergy after surgery, the company laid her off.