DNA testing in the workplace

Credit: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

To help prevent genetic discrimination, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). Let’s take a look at this law and how it protects employees from discrimination, including employer requests for DNA testing.

The term, “genetic information” includes information from an individual’s genetic tests, the information from a genetic test from the individual’s family member and information concerning an individual’s family medical history.

GINA… prevents an employer from asking, requiring or purchasing genetic information with respect to a current or future employee (or an employee’s family member). In other words, subject to a few exceptions, if your employer is covered by GINA, it may not ask you to take a DNA test.

GINA also has confidentiality requirements and an anti-retaliation provision. Employers that may lawfully request or possess an employee’s genetic information must keep that information confidential and separate from the employee’s general personnel file.

Related article:  Muscular dystrophy targeted with promising gene therapy

Finally, employers may not engage in any form of retaliation against a prospective or current employee who takes any step to oppose genetic discrimination as prohibited by GINA. This means if an employee files a discrimination complaint, cooperates with a discrimination investigation or participates in a GINA lawsuit, the employer may not fire, bully, demote or reduce the pay of that employee.

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GINA is a fairly new law, but it seems to have enough teeth to provide practical protections for employees.

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