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Alexandria, Va. - On Friday, May 1, 2009, SHRM submitted comments to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) suggesting various improvements to the proposed rules implementing the employment title of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). GINA (P.L. 110-343), signed into law by President Bush on May 21, 2008, prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis on their genetic make-up in both health insurance and employment.
Title II prohibits employers from making employment decisions that discriminate against individuals because of their genetic background. It also prohibits employers from requesting, requiring, or purchasing genetic information of an employee or an employee’s family member.
SHRM strongly supports the principle that employment decisions should be based on an individual’s qualifications and ability to perform a job and that discrimination based on genetic characteristics is improper. SHRM’s comments express concern, however, that an overly broad regulatory framework will result in serious and negative consequences for employers.
Recognizing that most HR professionals do not have expertise in genetics, SHRM urged the EEOC to clarify certain key definitions including how “genetic information” differs from general medical information and when a condition is “manifested” in an individual and, therefore, no longer merely a genetic predisposition.
SHRM urged the EEOC to clarify that GINA only covers situations where the employer intentionally “requests, requires, or purchases information,” not where the employee volunteers information or situations in which an employer inadvertently comes across genetic information. SHRM also seeks clarification on the interplay of GINA and workplace wellness programs.
Joining SHRM on its comments submitted to the EEOC, are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, National Public Employer Labor Relations Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., and National Federation of Retailers. To read SHRM’s submission, click HERE.
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