Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
The federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees from discriminating against employees based on genetic information. It also prohibits insurers from charging higher premiums based on genetic information or from using genetic information in underwriting decisions. A number of states also have laws prohibiting genetic discrimination in the workplace.
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Employment Law Provisions
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act forbids employers from discriminating against workers based on genetic information when hiring and firing and also with respect to their compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. GINA also prohibits employment agencies from failing or refusing to refer a worker for employment and labor unions from excluding or expelling a member based on genetic information. GINA also forbids employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management committees from making or trying to make an employer discriminate against an employee because of genetic information.
Under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, employers, employment agencies, and labor unions can’t limit, segregate, or classify workers because of genetic information in any way that would deprive them of employment opportunities.
GINA also requires employers, employment agencies, and labor unions that have any genetic information about workers to keep that information in separate files and to treat it as a confidential medical record. They are also prohibited from disclosing a worker’s genetic information except in very limited circumstances.
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After several delays the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued final regulations that interpret and implement the employment provisions of GINA. These regulations provide specific examples of what employers must do (or avoid doing) to comply. Read the final GINA regulations
Among other things, the regulations provide clarification about:
- Medical information. The regulations provide specific language that can be used in medical inquiry forms.
- Social media. The regulations discuss situations in which protected genetic information may be obtained through the use of social media.
- Wellness programs. The regulations explain how GINA applies to voluntary wellness programs and health risk assessments that may be used with such programs.
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Health Insurance Provisions
The other group the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act puts significant restrictions on is health insurers. GINA amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Public Health Service Act (PHSA), and the Internal Revenue Code to prohibit group health plans from changing premiums or contribution amounts for a group based on genetic information. GINA limits the ability of insurers to request or require genetic testing of those receiving coverage. It also provides a penalty against sponsors of group health plans for failures to meet the law’s requirements, but the penalty against the plan sponsor may be waived or limited if the failure to meet GINA’s requirements wasn’t discovered after exercising reasonable diligence or was due to reasonable causes.