What Employers Need to Know about the Final GINA Regulations

Arnstein & Lehr attorney E. Jason Tremblay

E. Jason Tremblay

As previously reported, the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) was passed into law by President Bush in 2008 and became effective on November 21, 2009. On November 9, 2010, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) published its final regulations that interpret and implement Title II of GINA. The final GINA regulations take effect on January 10, 2011. This article summarizes GINA and some of its significant regulations, as well as provides constructive guidance to employers in order to help them comply with GINA.

Brief Summary of GINA

GINA is designed to prevent the misuse of certain genetic information for employment purposes. Specifically, GINA prohibits employers from making employment decisions on the basis of genetic information and family medical history. It further restricts employers from acquiring genetic information and family medical history about applicants, employees, and former employees, and requires that genetic information be maintained as a confidential medical record. The Act applies to private employers who have 15 or more employees.

Under GINA, “genetic information” includes, among other things, information about an individual’s genetic test and information about the manifestation of a disease or disorder in an individual or an individual’s family members (e.g., family medical history). Examples of a “genetic test” include breast cancer exams, colon cancer exams or other screening tests for diseases such as cystic fibrosis. A genetic test, however, does not include tests such as cholesterol tests, liver function tests or tests for the presence of alcohol or illegal drugs. The final GINA regulations also do not necessarily limit the definition of family medical history to only hereditary diseases such as Parkinson’s or Huntington’s Disease. Therefore, as you can imagine, even friendly inquiries by coworkers into the heath of an employee or their relative have the potential to violate GINA.

To download a PDF of the entire GINA regulations article, please click here. The full article also appears below.

What Lawyers Need to Know about GINA Regulations

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