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What are the basics of complying with the new Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act?

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in Career Management,Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Workplace Communication

Q. I read the article last month (“Follow 5 steps to make sure GINA doesn’t trip you up”) regarding the recent passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. What should we do to make sure that we are not violating this law?

A. Genetic information is defined very broadly under GINA. It includes not only the results of genetic tests, but also genetic tests or medical history of family members.

You should never ask job applicants to disclose genetic information about themselves or their families. Audit your application and interview process to ensure that nothing has the effect—even unintentionally—of gathering such information.

More difficult issues arise with current employees. GINA greatly restricts how employers can offer their employees the benefit of genetic testing. Similarly, health and wellness plans will, in many cases, need to be revised to exclude acquisition of family medical history and other genetic information.

In addition, employers should be careful not to solicit genetic information when an employee requests FMLA leave. Policies need to be carefully tailored to solicit only the necessary information to respond to a request. Informal acquisition of this information, through monitoring employees’ social networking profiles or any other means, is just as risky.

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