Massie Authors Article on Genetic Testing, Privacy & Employment

December 7, 2017 - Firm attorney Dustin Massie was published in the December 2017 issue of Bench & Bar of Minnesota, the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association. In his article, “23, My Employer & Me: On Genetic Testing, Privacy, and Employment,” Massie examines federal and state legal protections regarding employee genetic information following his own genetic testing experience with the popular consumer genetics company 23andMe®.

During the testing process, 23andMe consumers are warned that any genetic testing information shared with an employer may be used against the employee’s interests. As a plaintiff’s employment attorney, Massie is well aware of how medical data may be used against employees. However, as Massie notes in his article, there are state and federal safeguards that protect employees from misuse of genetic data. For example, the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits employers from using genetic information to make employment decisions. Further, it restricts employers from requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information about an employee and strictly limits the disclosure of genetic data in health insurance.

There are several exceptions to GINA, including a provision that allows an employer to obtain genetic information through a voluntary workplace wellness program. Often these programs provide a positive incentive for participation. However, there has been a recent push in Congress to allow employers to impose penalties on employees who decline to participate in genetic testing as part of a wellness program. Massie notes that while these legislative efforts have failed thus far, many expect the issue to reemerge in future ACA-related legislative proposals.

Massie concludes by highlighting the even greater genetic information protections that Minnesota workers enjoy. Here, state law prohibits employers and employment agencies from administering genetic tests or requesting, requiring or collecting protected genetic information as a condition of employment. Further, they cannot terminate employees or affecting the terms or conditions of employment based on protected genetic data.

You can read the article in full here.

The employment lawyers of Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP are committed to protecting the rights of employees who have suffered workplace discrimination, harassment and retaliation. For questions about the firm or employment rights, contact Dustin or any of our attorneys by clicking here or calling us at 612-252-3570.