Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008, was enacted in response to developments in the field of genetics, the decoding of the human genome, and advances in genomic medicine. Congress was concerned that people were not taking advantage of genetic tests that could provide beneficial information because of concerns about discrimination by insurers or employers with access to their genetic information.

What is Genetic Information?
Genetic information includes information about an individual's genetic tests and the genetic tests of any individual's family members, and the manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members (family medical history).

Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, (GINA), prohibits genetic information discrimination in employment. Under Title II, which is enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is illegal to discriminate against employees or applicant because of genetic information and prohibits the use of genetic information in making employment decisions, restricts deliberate acquisition of genetic information by employers and entities covered by Title II, and strictly limits the disclosure of genetic information. Under GINA it is also unlawful to harass an individual because of his or her genetic information.

Under Title II of GINA, it's unlawful for an agency to request, require or purchase genetic information with respect to an employee or a family member of the employee except where a request or knowledge of information is:

  • Inadvertently acquired, such as in situations where a manager or supervisor overhears someone talking about a family member's illness;
  • Part of a voluntary wellness program with confidentiality provisions;
  • Acquired as part of the certification process under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); where leave is requested to care for a family member with a serious health condition;
  • Acquired through a voluntary program for “genetic monitoring of the biological effects of toxic substances in the workplace” under strict conditions;
  • Acquired in connection with DNA analysis for certain law enforcement purposes, i.e., forensic lab for purposes of identification of human remains.
  • Acquired through commercially and publicly available documents such as newspapers, magazine, periodicals, and books (but not including medical databases or court records) is permitted, as long as the employer is not searching those sources with the intent of finding genetic information.

A few examples of prohibited actions under GINA may include the following:

1. Example : Actions by the agencies that may limit, segregate, or classify employees because of genetic information. A n employer could not reassign someone whom it learned had a family medical history of heart disease from a job it believed would be too stressful and might eventually lead to heart-related problems for the employees.

2. Example: An employment agency or union might share or attempt to share genetic information it obtained (whether legally or not) about a client or member with an employer in an effort to affect the individual's employment prospects. Such contact would violate the law.

3. Example: An employer that directed an employment agency to ask applicants for genetic information or told the employment agency not to send candidates with a family medical history for certain conditions would violate the law.

4. Example: An employer requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information which would then be used to determine an individual's current and potentially future physical or mental limitations and whether those limitations can be accommodated.

Additional information regarding GINA can be found at www.eeoc.gov

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