Monday, September 8, 2008

What McCain's Sarah Palin decision teaches us about employment law

A lot of ink has been spilled in the last 10 days about John McCain's decision to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Much of that ink has focused on Palin's family issues that have come to light and whether McCain's team properly vetted her background. Suffice it to say that I'd like to see companies do more extensive screenings on even their hourly employees then it is believed McCain did on Palin.

Some of that ink has also suggested a sex-based bias in the treatment of Governor Palin as a mom and the role that plays in her ability to effectively perform her job. Some conservative pundits have suggested a bias because no one is questioning Obama's ability to govern and be a father at the same time.

While this debate has a lot to say about sexual stereotypes and the treatment of parents in the workplace, I'd like to use this debate to illustrate another point. On May 21, 2008, President Bush signed into law the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act ("GINA"). Among other provisions, GINA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against any employee because of the employee's genetic information, or the genetic information of an employee's family members. While it may seem legitimate to question whether Sarah Palin has the time to take on the Vice Presidency and effectively parent a special needs child, GINA instructs that such considerations are illegal.