Long-awaited GINA regulations clarify how to prevent genetic information discrimination

On November 9, 2010, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published the final regulations implementing the employment provisions of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). Title II of GINA is designed to prohibit employment discrimination based on genetic information, specifically restricting employers with 15 or more employees from obtaining and sharing genetic information.

According to the website: “The law forbids discrimination on the basis of genetic information when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, or any other term or condition of employment.”

Specifically, genetic information is defined as:

• Information about an individual’s genetic tests and the genetic tests of family members (including tests that identify a predisposition to a disease, such as breast cancer or Huntington’s Disease)
• Family medical history (often used to determine someone’s risk of getting a particular disease or disorder)
• Requests for and receipt of genetic services by an individual or family members
• Genetic information about an individual or family member’s fetus, or of an embryo legally held by an individual or family member through assisted reproductive technology

In addition to clarifying GINA’s prohibition against requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information (including guidelines for legal Internet searches), the final regulations include a “safe harbor” provision protecting employers from liability when they use specific language warning individuals not to provide genetic information when submitting health-related information.

To ensure compliance, you should display the “EEO is the Law” posting that the EEOC revised in late 2009. With Poster Guard® Compliance Protection, you can be confident you’re communicating the latest mandatory GINA information via the Federal Easy-Post™ labor law poster. You should also update your employee handbook to include “genetic information” as one of the protected, anti-discrimination categories.

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