Jack Lowe, a forklift operator, and Dennis Reynolds, a deliveryman, sued the Atlas Logistics Group, a company that runs grocery warehouses where they worked, after the company asked them to take a DNA saliva swab test in 2012. Their bosses were trying to solve the mystery of who was repeatedly defecating on warehouse grounds. The DNA tests proved Lowe and Reynolds were not to blame, and the "devious defecator" was never caught.
The two men filed a lawsuit, claiming the DNA test violated a federal law called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). The Act states that it is "...illegal for an employer to request, require, or purchase genetic information with respect to an employee." GINA was designed to protect workers from discrimination by employers who might use genetic testing to weed out different groups or identify employees who might develop a health condition.
Last month, the judge in the case ruled that GINA applied in this situation as well, even though the company did not use the DNA test to identify any genetic traits or discriminate.
"The law is really black and white. It says that you can not take this genetic test," CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman said.
A jury trial was held to determine the amount of damages, a decision which was being watched closely because it's the first case of its kind where an employer would have to pay damages.
This week the jury came back with a big verdict: $1.75 million in punitive damages against Atlas Logistics Group, and nearly half a million dollars more for the two workers' emotional pain and suffering, sending a clear message to companies that there's a high price to pay for genetic snooping.
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