New GINA Regulations

Employers across the nation need to review HR practices and employee wellness programs to ensure they do not violation GINA, the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act.

 

The newest GINA regulations issued by the US Department of Labor, the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services go into effect for plans starting on December 7, 2009 or later.

 

GINA prevents employers from gathering information on employees’ genetic makeup, and from making employment decisions based on that information. Many employers are surprised to learn that while they do not engage in genetic testing, common HR practices may still put them in violation of the law.

 

In addition, every employer needs a to prominently display a GINA poster in the workplace.

 

A behavior as simple as asking an employee returning from an uncle’s funeral about the cause of death may be a GINA violation.

 

Genetic information is interpreted very broadly under the sweeping new GINA regulations. In addition to genetic testing, GINA also includes an employees requests for or receipt of genetic services, and family medical history. This includes any manifestation of a disease or disorder in the employee’s family members including dependents plus all relatives to the fourth degree without regard to whether they are related by blood, marriage or adoption. This would include Continue reading

GINA Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act Goes Into Effect

Employers should be aware that GINA imposes even more stringent confidentiality laws than HIPAA does, regarding genetic information and an employee’s family medical history.

 

On November 21, 2009, Title II of GINA, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, will go into effect. This portion of the law prohibits employees from discrimination against an individual based on genetic testing. Title I of the law, which went into effect in May 2009, prohibits health insurance providers from discrimination against an individual based on genetic testing.

 

For example, a health insurance company could not refuse to cover an individual because he or she had a genetic predisposition for breast cancer, diabetes or heart disease. Nor could an employer refuse to hire an employee, based on that genetic information. In fact, it would be a violation of the law for the employer to even acquire information about an employee’s genetic profile.

 

More than 13 years in the making, GINA was signed into law by President George W. Bush on May 21, 2008.  The law was passed partly out of concern that individuals were refusing genetic testing, which might have improved their health care, because they feared discrimination from employers or health insurance providers.

 

The EEOC recently released GINA guidelines for employers to be in compliance with this new law.

 

Under Title II, GINA prohibits employers from intentionally Continue reading