17 November 2014
Mr. Reid HR (MW6)
HR & Genetic Testing
In November of 2009 the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 or GINA finally takes effect. This federal law “protects Americans from being treated unfairly because of differences in their DNA that may affect their health (Genetic Discrimination).” Genetic discrimination has now become a major topic for Human Resource Management departments in many companies and organizations. GINA was put in place to help those companies and to help everyone. But is it really helping and did the Human Genome Project start something that it never intended to?
The Human Genome Project (HGP) was started to help not to hurt. This research project was initially started to complete a mapping of the genes of a human being. After this research project was finished, scientists moved on to take gene mapping and extend the project to “help treat and find cures with people with diseases like diabetes and asthma (Jankowski).” Scientists had the right idea, they were successful in some sense because we are now able to identify the presence of a genetic trait that is linked to diseases like sickle cell or breast cancer. This development in the project does nothing more than warn you that you may develop a disease, not that you positively have that certain disease. “Genetic testing stigmatizes healthy individuals as genetically ‘defective’, making it difficult for them to find work (Andre).”
The definition of Genetic Information, from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, is “information about an individual’s genetic tests and the genetic tests of an individual’s family members, as well as information about the manifestation of a disease or disorder in an individual’s family members (Genetic Information).” Genetic discrimination is the unfair treatment of a person based on their genetic information when it comes to any aspect of employment, which includes but is not limited to hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, demotions, training, benefits or any other term or condition of employment. “An employer may never use genetic information to make an employment decision because genetic information is not relevant to an individual’s current ability to work (Genetic Information).”
While scientists were busy helping those who were sick or could potentially become sick, law makers were busy creating a law to be put in place so that people in the United States could still be hired for a job no matter what their genetic information could tell a potential employer. This law became known as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. This law was created to protect everyone and their DNA and ensure that they could be hired for a job solely based on their skills, knowledge and ethics, rather than their potential to get a life threatening disease. This law prevents discrimination from health insurers and employers alike. Genetics can now be in the same category as race, sex, sexual orientation any other fixed characteristics that can cause discrimination towards another human being. GINA also prevents the harassment of a person because of their genetic information. Harassment can include, making offensive or derogatory remarks about an applicant or employee’s genetic information, or about the genetic information of a relative of the applicant or employee. Simple teasing is not illegal but it does become illegal when the harassment is so severe or persuasive that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision such as the victim being fired or demoted. GINA also protects an employee or applicant from getting fired, demoted, harassed or otherwise “retaliate” against for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposing discrimination. There are six rules in place under GINA that are against acquiring genetic information. It will usually be