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How to handle genetic testing results in your workplace

In an article found on our website we discussed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Also referred to as GINA, this federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against employee because of genetic information. As is the case with other protected classes an employer cannot discriminate against an employee regarding promotions, salary or wages, eligibility for benefits, training opportunities, job responsibilities, layoffs, firing or hiring.

Genetic information can take multiple forms including the results of person’s genetic tests. For people who undergo genetic testing, it is possible that they will not know what to do with the results of such tests. When someone tests positive for a genetic trait, there will undoubtedly be decisions that need to be made such as what steps to take on the medical front or how to tell loved ones.

Individuals also need to be aware of what their privacy rights regarding the matter are. For example, while such information cannot be withheld from an insurance company, there is no requirement that an employee inform his or her employer of genetic test results. In fact, keeping that information private might benefit your employment situation.

This is because while discriminating based on that information is illegal, it nonetheless still happens. Keeping that information private removes the possibility of genetic discrimination occurring.

Sometimes however employers find out anyway. This might happen in a situation where an employee shares the information with a coworker who is a friend and that individual either discloses it to someone else, or the initial conversation is overheard. Regardless of how an employer learns of genetic test results, if based upon those results it take discriminating actions against an employee, the employee may take legal action. Individuals who find themselves in this situation would likely benefit from working with an employment lawyer to determine his or her options.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, “How to Cope With a Positive Genetic Test Result,” Kristine Crane Oct. 10, 2014

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