ATLANTA (CN) – A federal jury in Atlanta awarded two warehouse employees more than $2.2 million in damages after their DNA was illegally collected by their employer during an in-house investigation.
Defendant Atlas Logistics Group Retail Services operates warehouses for several retail grocery stores. In 2012, a mystery employee began habitually defecating in one in one of its warehouses.
To determine who the guilty party was, Atlas requested that several of its employees, including plaintiff’s Jack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds, submit to a cheek swab.
The cheek samples were then sent to a lab where a technicians compared the DNA in the samples to DNA from the fecal matter. Lowe and Reynolds were not a match.
With the culprit still on the loose, the two warehouse workers sued Atlas under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which generally prohibits employers from requesting genetic information from its employees.
In May, U.S District Judge Amy Totenberg rejected Atlas Logistics Group’s motion for summary dismissal of the worker’s claims. In doing so, she concluded the company had violated the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act when it collected the DNA samples from the plaintiffs and could be held liable for the violations.
Although the jury, which was comprised of eight women, awarded the men $2.2 million, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act provides a $600,000 cap on punitive damages.
Speaking with Courthouse News after the jury’s damages verdict was announced, Dion Kohler, the Atlanta-based attorney for Atlas said “absolutely no genetic code information” had been obtained from the samples collected from Lowe and Reynolds.
He went on to say he and hisclient believe the jury’s compensatory damage award is “very high based on the very little evidence they put forward of emotional injury.”
Kohler also went on to say there was no evidence that Atlas Logistics knowingly or recklessly violated the law, which is the standard for punitive damages.
“It’s not over,” Kohler said, adding that his client is now weighing its options.
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