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Justice In Genetic Discrimination Case

Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law & Human Rights solicitors recently achieved a successful outcome for a client in a case concerning the legality of using genetic information in pre-employment checks, sometimes referred to as ‘genetic discrimination'.


Our client, referred to as Susan (not her real name), was denied a job by a government body on the basis that she is a carrier of a genetic condition that may affect her in later life. This condition was disclosed by our client in a pre-employment health questionnaire.

Expert medical evidence confirmed that our client is entirely fit and healthy with no symptoms of the genetic condition. Susan is subject to regular monitoring and it is her specialist’s opinion that she will remain unaffected for many years and indeed may never develop clinically significant signs or symptoms.

Nevertheless, she was denied a career that she had set her heart on as a result of her genetic pre-disposition to a treatable medical condition.

Appeal Submitted

Susan contacted Alex Rook, a specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, to advise on the options for challenging this decision by the government body. We submitted an internal appeal on behalf of our client to try to overturn the decision but this was unsuccessful.

After further correspondence did not resolve the matter, it was necessary to formally challenge the lawfulness of the decision by way of judicial review.

We issued proceedings at the High Court in December 2013, arguing that the government body had unlawfully interfered with our client’s right to respect for her private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and had breached the Data Protection Act 1998 in reaching its decision not to offer a position to our client solely on the basis of her genetic information.

Decision Overturned

The day after court proceedings were formally issued, the government body conceded the case and informed our client that she would be offered the position she had applied for and been denied. Susan is of course "absolutely thrilled" with this outcome, which allows her to pursue her chosen career.

She said: "When I was told that I had been refused the job I have been working towards for the last six years I was devastated. A close friend recommended Irwin Mitchell and without their tireless efforts on my behalf, I would have been unable to fulfil my ambition.

"Alex Rook and his team have been sympathetic and dedicated advocates: always professional, persistent and, above all, supportive of me personally."

Reflecting on the case, Alex Brook said: "It is unfortunate that the government body would not agree to resolving the matter without recourse to solicitors, but we are delighted that they have accepted that they cannot use Susan’s genetic condition as a reason to prevent her taking up her job offer."

For expert advice on matters relating to discrimination law, please contact Alex Rook of Irwin Mitchell's Public Law & Human Rights team on 0370 1500 100 or complete our enquiry form.

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