On November 9, 2010, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the final regulations under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008. GINA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against individuals including job applicants, current and former employees, on the basis of genetic information. Under this act, genetic information specifically refers to details about an individual’s genetic tests, those of their family members, family medical history, or the appearance of a disease or disorder.
The regulations under GINA will become effective beginning January 2011. The following are some of the specific regulations that will be implemented.
- Employers are prohibited from making employment decisions on the basis of genetic information and family history. Such employment decisions includes hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, or any other term or condition of employment.
- Employers are not allowed to acquire genetic information and family medical history about applicants, employees, former employees, etc.
- Harassment of a person because of his or her genetic information is prohibited. It is unlawful to make derogatory or offensive remarks about the applicant or employee’s genetic information or that of the individual’s relatives.
- The use of genetic information to make decisions about health insurance is prohibited.
- It is illegal for a covered entity to reveal genetic information about applicants, employees or members.
Although the Act is meant to prohibit the acquisition and disclosure of genetic information, the EEOC stated that there are six exceptions. One of these exceptions permits employers to use genetic information when it relates to voluntary wellness programs regardless of whether or not a financial incentive is involved.