Norman-Bloodsaw v. Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
United States. Court of Appeals. Ninth Circuit
Federal Reporter, 3d Series, 1998; 135: 1260-1276
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the lower court's dismissal and allowed clerical or administrative workers to sue their employer for testing for "highly private and sensitive medical genetic information such as syphilis, sickle cell trait, and pregnancy" without either their consent or their knowledge during a general employee health examination. The court noted that "the most basic violation possible" of constitutional privacy interests involves the performance of unauthorized testing for medical information and that such testing may be viewed as illegal search under the Fourth Amendment in addition to violation of due process under the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendments. Because there are "few subject areas more personal and more likely to implicate privacy interests than that of one's health or genetic make-up," the court concluded that the unauthorized testing constituted a significant invasion of the right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment. The court reasoned that neither consent to a general medical examination nor consent to providing blood or urine samples abolishes the privacy right not to be tested for intimate, personal matters involving one's health. Also, because black employees were singled out for sickle cell trait testing and female employees for pregnancy testing, the employer discriminated against them concerning terms or conditions of employment, thus violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Date of Decision: 3 February 1998
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