GINA: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Business

GINA (The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008) prohibits employers from requesting or requiring genetic information of an individual they are employing or considering for employment and their family members. But what does that really mean to you? When most people hear about this law, they immediately think of the DNA tests people send off in the mail and the results they get back. But it doesn’t only have to do with the swab of a mouth telling someone they are predisposed to an illness.

          Consider this. You are interviewing a potential new account manager when he mentions to you his father was recently diagnosed with dementia. Now, you may think nothing of it, perhaps consider the time off he would need to care for his father, which is not an issue for you. But then you start considering the implications of hiring someone who is predisposed to dementia. Can you trust him with your biggest accounts when you know there’s a chance he could develop the same condition? What if you do hire him and years later you notice he is forgetting things. Do you remember what he told you and pull him off the top accounts because you just cannot risk it? By doing what you think is “right” for your business you have just violated GINA and put your company at risk.

So, when does GINA not apply?

  • GINA does not apply to employers with less than 15 employees. However, this does not mean you are off the hook ethically considering a known family history of heart conditions before you promote John in accounting.
  • It also does not give you the go ahead to DNA test the cups being left in the breakroom because you are sure its Karen in customer service and you are going to prove it!
  • It also doesn’t apply to Employee Wellness Programs. Some companies implement these programs hoping to promote good health and disease prevention among its employees. Usually, in exchange for participating employees will receive discounts on employer provided insurance, extra paid leave, or fun prizes like gift cards and the oh so coveted company logo water bottles (that we all have six of). These programs usually collect data through a third party and the information gathered helps companies focus on preventing illnesses. For instance, it can provide a resource to help those with a family history of diabetes on how to prevent diabetes from becoming an issue for them. However, any information gathered during these programs can not be used to punish or give incentives to those who participate. So, if Mary in marketing isn’t willing to submit her genetic makeup for the wellness program, you cannot discriminate against her.

Still have questions? We are happy to help you navigate the sometimes-overwhelming laws that effect you and your employees. 

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