A company that had an outrageous problem on its hands is now being forced to pay out a big settlement to two employees after it forced them to undergo DNA testing.
Atlas Logistics Group Retail Services, which sorts and delivers inventory for grocery stores in Atlanta, GA, has been ordered by a federal jury to pay employees Jack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds a combined $2.2 million for forcing the pair to undergo buccal cheek swabs for DNA testing. The testing was performed in an effort to catch a person who had been defecating throughout the company’s warehouse.
While the DNA testing didn’t help catch the mystery pooper (both Lowe and Reynolds were cleared) it did land the company in hot water.
Lowe and Reynolds declined a combined $200,000 settlement offer from the company and instead went ahead with a trial. The trial is the first to seek damages resulting from 2008 civil rights legislation that generally bars employers from using individuals’ “genetic information” when making hiring, firing, job placement, or promotion decisions.
Atlas Logistics claimed the “genetic information” at issue wasn’t covered by the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) because the GINA legislation excludes analyses of DNA, RNA, chromosomes, proteins, or metabolites if such analyses do not reveal an individual’s propensity for disease.
However, US District Judge Amy Totenberg ruled that the “plain meaning of the statute’s text” is satisfactory for the case to go forward despite the tests at issue not revealing disease propensities.
Atlas said it is now mulling an appeal and has filed papers demanding that the combined verdicts be reduced to $300,000 for each plaintiff. The law caps damages at $300,000 each, Atlas said in court papers.
Lowe and Reynolds were singled out because their work schedules coincided with the timing and location of what the court termed the “defecation episodes.”
The warehouse firm hired Speckin Forensic Laboratories to perform the buccal swab samples of the plaintiffs to compare them against the fecal matter left on site via Short Tandem Repeat (STR) analysis.