Last week the U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation that would prevent employers or insurance carriers from discriminating against individuals based upon genetic testing. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) goes to the House of Representatives, where approval is expected. President Bush may sign GINA into law as early as May.
GINA was first proposed in 1995. The law would restrict insurers’ and employers’ ability to require genetic testing as a condition of coverage or employment. The EEOC would be given the authority to investigate and seek remedial action against employers accused of discriminating against employees or applicants based on fear that they have a genetic predisposition to develop some chronic medical condition.
For employers, GINA may be a law in search of a problem. There have been very few reported cases of employers seeking to use genetic information to make decisions concerning terms and conditions of employment. Such behavior is likely illegal already under the “regarded as disabled” prong of the Americans with Disabilities Act. GINA appears to be an effort by Congress to put into place a legal framework intended to deal with expected future advances in genetic testing, and temptations for employers and insurers to misuse this information.
EmployNews will provide a complete review of the final bill when signed into law.