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In the United States, people are protected from discrimination based on their sex, religion, race, national origin — and their genes.

In 2008, then-present George Bush signed into law the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). Among other things, GINA provides the following protections:

  • GINA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees, or potential employees in any way based on genetic information. Recognized as an immutable characteristic, genetic material may not be used as basis for an employment decision.
  • Knowledge of genetic history may not be used to harass or retaliate against an employee.
  • Health insurers may not discriminate in terms of insurability and premiums based on genetic information or history.
  • With six exceptions, employers and insurers are prohibited from requesting genetic information, requiring genetic testing or acquiring information involving genetic history.

With time and technological advance, opportunity for genetic discrimination will rise. Despite laws against gathering and using genetic data, the use of sophisticated data mining tools will prove lucrative to employers and insurers interested in saving money on high risk prospects.

Laws deter but do not always prohibit. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 245 complaints of genetic discrimination in 2011, with those numbers rising to 280 in 2012. Consequences of genetic discrimination are similar to other forms of proven discrimination, including reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, fees and other relief.

In January of this year, the University of London announced it had identified a genotype, termed rs4950, that appears to confer genetic capability toward leadership. Without effective, well-funded and transparent enforcement of GINA and others laws, what company — or even country — would not try to prove leadership is not just skin deep?

Time and laws change. At present, genetic material does not. If you suspect discrimination based on genetic history or any other factor, call The Reddy Law Firm, PC. The consultation is free.

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