Do You Want Employee DNA?

Our DNA is what makes each of us unique.  It also holds secrets.  It can tell us where may suffer from breast or colon cancer, where our ancestors are from, and what eye color our kids could have.  All of this is very, very cool.  But do we need to know our employee’s DNA?

Congress took action in 2008 to prevent DNA and family medical from getting into the hands of employers.  When the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) passed in 2008, well over 90% of the House and Senate voted in favor.  GINA prevents employers from obtaining and using this information to make employment decisions.  The EEOC enforces GINA, working to prevent harassment, discrimination, and even retaliation.  With a bill currently before Congress, some of this could change.

As Jon Hyman recently explained, Congress is considering a bill that will allow employers to ask for personal and family medical histories, including DNA, provided the employee gives the information voluntarily.  If the employee refuses, he could not receive the 30% premium reduction incentive.

Imagine what a devil-on-a-shoulder of an employer could say if it had employee DNA and family medical histories.  “Don’t promote (or recognize) her, she’s got BRCA1, and her mom died of cancer.  She’s too expensive.” Or when a shoulder devil learns about an employee with a special needs child who has had several heart surgeries.  “Uff. That family’s health care costs are too high.  He’ll probably need so much time off and cost us a lot.”  While I’d like to believe this wouldn’t happen, it is exactly what plaintiff attorneys suspect will happen.

There already are services that can help reduce health care costs using employee DNA.  Take Newtopia.  Newtopia matches employee DNA, a fitness tracker, dietary log, supplements, and personalized coaching to reduce employer health care costs.  According to Newtopia, it really works.  For one employer, Newtopia’s program saved an employer over $1,400 per employee per year.  That’s a lot.  Something some employers can’t ignore when health care costs are skyrocketing.

Yet, we don’t want our employer to have our DNA.  I recently used Newtopia’s marketing video in a presentation to 30 HR executives.  When I looked at their reactions, several had their mouths agape.  I get the same reaction when I share this information with employment attorneys.  They know that employee DNA is sensitive and could create problems.  One, that many of them don’t want.

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