Roll Back of Genetic Protections?

A bill is before the US House of Representatives that would enable employers to require employees to undergo genetic testing — so long as it is a part of a workplace wellness program, as GenomeWeb reports.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits employers, as well as insurers, from requesting or demanding that someone take a genetic test. It also bars employers from making employment decisions based on a person's genes.

But this new bill, HR 1313 or the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, would enable employers to get around those prohibitions. It says that workplace wellness programs wouldn't be subject to the restrictions of GINA and other protections, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Employers would also be able to impose financial penalties on employees who do not take part in wellness programs, though they would still be considered voluntary programs.

In a statement, the American Society for Human Genetics opposes the bill. "While ASHG applauds efforts to improve employee wellness, employee protections against genetic discrimination established by GINA must not be sacrificed to achieve this," Nancy Cox, the ASHG president, says. "Americans must be able to continue to volunteer for research and benefit from genetics-based clinical advances without fear of workplace discrimination based on its findings."

Stat News adds that a House committee approved the bill this week in a party-line vote and that the bill is expected to be folded in with other healthcare legislation.

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Fri, 03/10/2017 - 1:52pm

Submitted by bzehnba_2096071

This is discriminatory coercion and an invasion of privacy. Genetic traits are pre-existing conditions that individuals cannot control. How can one be financially penalized for failing to participate in a "voluntary" program?

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 5:00pm

Submitted by bradley.hoo_2

Big brother at its worst.

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 6:33pm

Submitted by GeneticsNerd00

We have worked SO HARD in the genetics community to prevent genetic discrimination; GINA took over a DECADE to get passed and made a HUGE difference in patient's willingness to proceed with life-saving genetic testing. This very short-sided bill would undermine and reverse the protections provided by GINA and the ADA and give employers, of all people, the power to not only invade the privacy of and discriminate against their employees based on their private medical information, which is called PROTECTED Health information and protected the HIPAA for several reasons, but would also allow them to FINE the employees who refuse to participate up to thousands of dollars? This is NOT the right way to go about employee wellness! I have emailed all of my legislators telling them how opposed I am to this and begging them to vote NO on this and get this removed from any future health care alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

Fri, 03/10/2017 - 6:35pm

Submitted by GeneticsNerd00

sorry-short SIGHTED, not short sided...

Berkeley researchers have engineered yeast to make the molecule behind the hoppy taste of beer, Quartz reports.

King's College London researchers examine the influence of school type and genetics on academic achievement.

FiveThirtyEight writes that most who take a direct-to-consumer BRCA1/2 genetic test won't learn much from it.

In Science this week: early life experience influence somatic variation in the genome, and more.