DNA and Employee Rights: Voyeruism in the Workplace?


I heard this story on the news the other day and couldn’t believe my ears.  In a move that even Orwell couldn’t have dreamed up while tripping on acid, HR 1313 passed the House committee with unanimous approval by the members’ Republicans, while being opposed by its remaining Democrats.  This little gem gives unprecedented voyeuristic legitimacy as companies were given the right to require employees to fork over their dna for testing or be penalized thousands of dollars.  The icing on the cake…the bill also gives the employers the green light to see the results of these tests!

This made the news rounds for about a day before quietly fading in to oblivion.  I guess I shouldn’t complain, I’m a little surprised it got reported at all.  I have a sneaky suspicion that it was sponsored, or even written by the insurance companies, but I have no proof of this, but then again, I haven’t investigated this aspect of it.  Either way, it doesn’t matter from where it originated, it is troublesome that it even saw the light of day in the first place.  The ramifications of this bill, should it pass and become law are intrusive, an assault on privacy and reckless.  The cost emotionally and financially to any employee unfortunate enough to work for one of these creepy companies could be pretty substantial.

I envision a new kind of minority being created-those with undesirable genetic markers.  A new kind of discrimination being created in the form of exorbitant insurance premiums as insurance companies try to capture the predicted cost of future, as-of-yet unmanifested diseases, up front.  Worse yet, no insurance at all.

The emotional toll on this new underclass would have to be significant as well.  Think about it.  Do you really want your employer to know your most intimate health issues?  Your IQ? Genetic markers for mental illness?  What about the other information that is harvested from these dna tests?  There does not seem to be a limit as to what information from the dna tests can be provided to the employer.

Why aren’t more people asking these questions?

One glaring omission, which I don’t think is accidental, is the fact having a marker for a specific disease does not always mean it will manifest.  There is no financial incentive for the insurance companies, their lap dog congressmen, and possible employers wanting to use this information as a justification for discrimination, to take this in to account.

Hopefully any unfortunate employee who has received “bad dna news” will take this in to account.  Maybe it will be of some small comfort to them as their paycheck dwindles.