Monday, June 8, 2015

GINA Applies to DNA Tests for Identification Purposes

The police can use DNA tests to identify suspects, but apparently, private companies cannot, according to a recent court case. The company that wanted to identify the "devious defecator", an employee who was defecating regularly in its warehouse. To solve the mystery the company asked several employees for samples for DNA testing. The employees were cleared, but they later sued the company.

Last month a federal court in Atlanta ruled in favor of the employees, ruling that a DNA test of an employee by a private company violates the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). As you may recall, GINA protects employees from employment discrimination by making it illegal "for an employer to request, require, or purchase genetic information with respect to an employee." In its decision, the court ruled that although in this case the employees' DNA samples were not used to test for specific genes, they could have been used for that purpose and hence the mere act of asking the employees for a DNA sample violates GINA.

It's a surprisingly narrow interpretation of GINA, especially since GINA does not protect you against discrimination in other areas, such as life, disability, and long-term insurance (see this blog Apr. 17, 2014.) It will be interesting to see if this interpretation holds up in future cases.

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