Sunday, July 3, 2016

GINA ...

today i was watching some of those mandatory in-processing training videos (Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) and there was something new that surprised me in a way, but then again not.

years ago when i was teaching human resources classes at a university (2005-2008), i would show the movie "Gattaca" as an example of what kind of changes we can look forward to in the future of human resources.

that day is here.

a new anti-discrimination law was passed called GINA which stands for Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act of 2008.  it took effect on 21 November 2009.
my first thought was to wonder when the government was going to start collecting DNA samples for everyone or if they have somehow already begun collecting it in ways that we are unaware of.
then i read this, and i've highlighted sections that made me raise my eyebrows because after reading it, i wondered if they really thought their exceptions to the rule were narrow because it seems that their idea of gathering DNA could be simply based on hearsay and gossip.  the thoughts in red italics are mine, and i'm not normally a conspiracy theorist, but it just seems like the narrow exceptions are really not so narrow.

Rules Against Acquiring Genetic Information
It will usually be unlawful for a covered entity to get genetic information. There are six narrow exceptions to this prohibition:
  • Inadvertent acquisitions of genetic information do not violate GINA, such as in situations where a manager or supervisor overhears someone talking about a family member’s illness. this seems like a broad policy for "inadvertent acquisitions" and it does not seem to restrict who is doing the talking and if they are talking about their own family or someone else's family.
  • Genetic information (such as family medical history) may be obtained as part of health or genetic services, including wellness programs, offered by the employer on a voluntary basis, if certain specific requirements are met.  what are the specific requirements?  most large corporations offer wellness programs, so will they also be collecting DNA if you participate in one?
  • Family medical history may be acquired as part of the certification process for FMLA leave (or leave under similar state or local laws or pursuant to an employer policy), where an employee is asking for leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.  to my knowledge, family medical history has never been a part of the certification process for the Family Medical Leave Act in the past.  are they going to ask just for the history of the person you would leave to care for, or will they want generations past now?
  • Genetic information may be acquired through commercially and publicly available documents like newspapers, as long as the employer is not searching those sources with the intent of finding genetic information or accessing sources from which they are likely to acquire genetic information (such as websites and on-line discussion groups that focus on issues such as genetic testing of individuals and genetic discrimination).  so... if you join an online support group for say ALS or Parkinsons or parents of autistic children or cancer or whatever ... and the employer overhears someone talking (see first bullet) can he "accidently" find said support group online and then flag an employee's file for genetic issues?  
  • Genetic information may be acquired through a genetic monitoring program that monitors the biological effects of toxic substances in the workplace where the monitoring is required by law or, under carefully defined conditions, where the program is voluntary. anyone working in a manufacturing plant with any kind of chemicals could now be required to submit DNA, which the government could potentially request for their own reasons?
  • Acquisition of genetic information of employees by employers who engage in DNA testing for law enforcement purposes as a forensic lab or for purposes of human remains identification is permitted, but the genetic information may only be used for analysis of DNA markers for quality control to detect sample contamination. under the "umbrella" of possible crime scene contamination, every law enforcement officer will now have to submit DNA.  just because they say it may only be used for quality control, doesn't mean that it won't be entered into a computer program that will be accessible to the government for other purposes.

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