Why Genetic Testing and the Workplace Don’t Match

by Evil HR Lady on January 4, 2016

The Wall Street Journal reports that several companies are using genetic testing to help employees lose weight or learn about certain cancer markers. Sounds awesome, right? Wouldn’t you like to be prepared and take precautions if you knew that you were genetically predisposed to breast cancer? Or if you knew that you were likely develop Type II Diabetes, it might inspire you to exercise more and eat less. If you’re predisposed to colon cancer, you might just schedule that colonoscopy sooner rather than later.

All of this can not only save your life, but it can save your health insurance company a fortune. And who, ultimately, is paying your health insurance? Your employer. Employers see this as a way to save costs in the long run.

Personally, I’m all in favor of genetic testing, but not when the company is involved. While these companies swear on a stack of metaphorical bibles that they will never access this information, it puts the company at risk. How?

Let’s say Jane decides to participate in her company’s free genetic testing program. Because, hey, free testing! Her test comes back and shows that she’s a genetic disaster. She has markers for Type II Diabetes, breast cancer, and colon cancer. She’s a time bomb waiting to happen. Poor Jane.

To keep reading, click here: Why Genetic Testing and the Workplace Don’t Match

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauri J Owen January 4, 2016 at 6:33 pm

I *am* a lawyer, and using genetic information in the workplace for any reason violates federal law. Period. Your personal opinion about whether it should be used has no place here. Also: being fat doesn’t per se equal unhealth, and neither does a lack of exercise, not eating 3 servings of vegetables, or any other personal choice that has no business being discussed in a legal piece, as it devastates the credibility of everything you’ve written. 

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Elizabeth West January 5, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Pretty harsh, Lauri. I think that was her point–there’s no place for that sort of information in company databases. But plenty of companies do crap they shouldn’t do.

Your credibility may be backed up by your job, but I’m extremely happy I don’t work with you.

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Jeff January 5, 2016 at 2:18 pm

It violates federal law, Lauri? Period? Good to know! Because it’s illegal, it can’t ever happen, right? No company has ever done something that’s against the law…

Evil HR Lady isn’t discussing what’s legal or not; her point is you should minimize the company’s exposure to risk. A nasty lawsuit is a risk that a company wants to avoid, even if the company hasn’t done anything illegal.

Eliminating genetic testing eliminates this risk.

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