Freedom From Genetic Discrimination

WASHINGTON - On January 20, 1998 the White House endorsed a federal ban on genetic discrimination against workers in hiring and promotion, according to an article by Susan Page in USA Today.

The announcement is an effort to protect employees against a form of discrimination that did not exist a decade ago. That is genetic discrimination.

This follows the development of tests that can identify the presence of many genetic conditions such as Huntington's disease before they become clinically evident. The tendency to disorders such as breast and colon cancer is also becoming detectable.

"In the next five to 10 years, there will be tens if not hundreds of genetic-predisposition tests available," said Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project. "If no protections are in place, it could be used to deny us a job, and that seems patently unfair. One thing you don't have much choice about is your DNA sequence."

The White House ban would, according to USA Today, serve to:

  • Prohibit employers from requiring (or requesting) a genetic test or genetic information as a condition of being hired or receiving benefits;
  • Prohibit employers from using genetic information to limit job opportunities; but
  • Permit the use of genetic information and testing in some situations to ensure health and safety in the workplace, and preserve research opportunities.