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New Bill May Pressure Employees to Submit to Genetic Screening

A new bill proposed in Congress has many concerned that they may face stiff penalties at work if they decline to submit to genetic testing. Currently, the federal law protects employees’ genetic privacy. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) bans using genetic results as a basis for hiring/firing workers and prohibits employers from asking about DNA results.

The intent behind passing GINA was to prohibit discrimination by health insurers and employers based on a worker’s genetic make-up. When the Obama administration passed the Affordable Care Act  (ACA) in 2009, it also promoted workplace wellness programs.  However, in order to comply with GINA, the ACA created an exception whereby if employees provided genetic information as part of voluntary wellness programs, employers were prohibited from providing incentives for submitting the data or penalties for not providing it. Further, this information was not available to employers, only to the administrators of the programs.

However, the new bill would change this and allow employers to exact penalties on employees who do not participate in company wellness programs, while at the same time requiring that they provide genetic information to participate.  This seems to be in direct contradiction to GINA. Employees who refuse, would be in a bind - either face financial penalties for not participating, or open themselves up to discrimination based on their predisposition to certain genetic diseases.

Opponents believe that such a bill would represent a tremendous invasion of privacy by allowing employers to ask employees invasive questions about workers or their family members’ health. Compelling DNA tests results could lead to widespread discrimination against groups with higher genetic dispositions of developing certain diseases.

As Atlanta employment attorneys dedicated to fighting against discrimination, we are opposed to such bill. For more information, please contact our experienced employerment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Beal, LLP for an immediate consultation.

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