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US Employees Who Decline Genetic Testing Could Face Prosecution Under New Bill

US Employees Who Decline Genetic Testing Could Face Prosecution Under New Bill

More and more US Employers now participate in workplace wellness programs, these programs are allegedly designed to ensure the health of employees remains paramount to the employer.

Wellness programs commonly screen employees—and, at times, dependents—for health risks through health risk assessment (HRA) surveys and biometric screening. These programs also provide interventions to address health risks and manifest disease, as well as promote healthy lifestyles. Wellness program popularity is mainly driven by employers’ expectations that these programs will improve employee health and well-being, lower medical costs, and increase productivity.[source]

The information gathered is not necessarily safe in the hands of the employer either:

A prominent example comes from Houston, where city employees were required to disclose their disease history and other essential health information to a private company hired by the city to conduct a wellness program.

The authorization form that employees signed when disclosing the information, however, told workers that their answers would no longer be subject to privacy law, could be shared with a third-party vendor and be posted in “areas reviewable to the public.”  [source]

So a complete health profiling of employees throughout the US is up for grabs by third-parties and of course the US Government.

Currently, employees have the right to refuse genetic testing requested within these ‘wellness programs’, however, if a new bill is approved by a U.S. House committee the right to decline will be banished and employees could face prosecution for declining such tests, the Washington Post reports:

Employers could impose hefty penalties on employees who decline to participate in genetic testing as part of workplace wellness programs if a bill approved by a U.S. House committee this week becomes law.

In general, employers don’t have that power under existing federal laws, which protect genetic privacy and nondiscrimination. But a bill passed Wednesday by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce would allow employers to get around those obstacles if the information is collected as part of a workplace wellness program.

The bill is under review by other House committees and still must be considered by the Senate. But it has already faced strong criticism from a broad array of groups, as well as House Democrats. In a letter sent to the committee earlier this week, nearly 70 organizations— representing consumer, health and medical advocacy groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, AARP, March of Dimes and the National Women’s Law Center — said the legislation, if enacted, would undermine basic privacy provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).


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