Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

Labor & Employment Law Articles

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

On May 21, 2008, President Bush signed into law the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).  GINA bars insurers and employers from denying employment, promotions or health coverage to people when genetic tests show they have a predisposition to cancer or any other disease.  The employment provisions of GINA go into effect in November 2009, while the provisions pertaining to group health plans go into effect in May, 2009.

Specifically, Title II of GINA prohibits, as an unlawful employment practice, an employer, employment agency, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee from discriminating against an individual by firing, failing to hire or otherwise discriminating against an individual with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of the individual’s genetic information.

GINA also prohibits employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees from limiting, segregating, or classifying employees, individuals, or members because of genetic information in any way that would deprive such individuals of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect their status as employees.

In addition, employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees are prohibited from requesting, requiring, or purchasing an employee’s genetic information, except for certain purposes which include where: (1) such information is requested or required to comply with certification requirements of family and medical leave laws; (2) the information involved is to be used for genetic monitoring of the biological effects of toxic substances in the workplace; and (3) the employer conducts DNA analysis for law enforcement purposes as a forensic laboratory.  Any genetic information that employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees already possess must be maintained in separate files and treated as a confidential medical record.

Finally, under GINA, employers, employment agencies, labor organizations, or joint labor-management committees are prohibited from disclosing such genetic information, except: (1) to the employee or member upon request; (2) to an occupational or other health researcher; (3) in response to a court order; (4) to a government official investigating compliance with GINA if the information is relevant to the investigation; (5) in connection with the employee’s compliance with the certification provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 or such requirements under state family and medical leave laws; or (6) to a public health agency.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about GINA and how it may affect your business.