Thursday, February 17, 2011

Employers: watch out for "GINA"

Ward and Smith PA
Kyle R. Still
February 4 2011

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act ("GINA") is still unfamiliar to many employers, despite the fact that Congress enacted it in 2008. That soon will change, however, as the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") recently issued final regulations interpreting GINA. The regulations went into effect on January 10, 2011, and require all employers to change the way in which they ask for medical information about their employees.
This article will discuss the basic requirements of GINA, its overlap with other health-related employment laws, and one important change employers should make to their medical inquiry policies in light of the EEOC's new regulations.
GINA's Basic Requirements
GINA protects employees from discrimination based on as yet unmanifested health conditions (such as the fact that diabetes runs in an employee's family). Most of GINA's legal protections relate to the use and collection of "genetic information" about employees. GINA's definition of "genetic information" contains many items including not only information from genetic tests taken by an employee or an employee's family member, but also information about an employee's family medical history. For example, if members of an employee's family have diabetes, that is considered to be part of that employee's genetic information.

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