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Law to prohibit genetic discrimination

According to the new anti-discrimination law, a person's genetic cannot come in the way of his being hired, fired or appraised at a workplace

Washington, November 23 - New Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prevents discrimination at workplace on basis of one’s genetic framework.

After nearly a decade from when it was first conceived, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act has finally become a law.

This watershed legislation prohibits employers from considering genetic structure while hiring, firing or promoting a person.

Protection to employees
The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act is the second such law, after the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which offers extensive protection to employees.

The new law stresses that at a workplace place the only criteria for judging a person should be their merit, Stuart J. Ishimaru, acting chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated.

"No one should be denied a job or the right to be treated fairly in the workplace based on fears that he or she may develop some condition in the future," he said.

In addition to the workplace protection, the new law also checks health insurers to deny a person insurance coverage or alter insurance rates based on genetic makeup, which may include conditions like tendency for Parkinson’s etc.

Law and its framework
A nonprofit group, National Federation of Independent Business, which lobbies for small businesses, has been taking up numerous concerns with EEOC, a body that oversees this law.

It seeks to establish that according to the new law, any medical history, pertaining to a person or members of his family, will fall under the purview of genetic information.

Elizabeth Milito, senior counsel at the National Federation of Independent Business, said that the concerns included factors like employers innocently discovering genetic information about employees would be held responsible for keeping that piece of information in their records, the confusing interchange of federal statutes, and availability of genetic details of people on the Internet.

For or against the law
Although the America's Health Insurance Plans supported the law in its formative stages, but has its reservations with the final outcome.

It says the law would affect people’s inclination to stay healthy and will affect the importance of wellness and disease-management programs.

Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman of the association said, “If a patient is at risk for a particular condition, they are a good candidate to do more preventive screenings, and this would prohibit some of that information even being gathered."

The law to prevent discrimination at workplace on the basis on one’s genetic makeup is in place; however, there is little evidence of existence of any such bias.

Peter Bennett, an attorney specializing in employment law, said there were no pending cases of this nature for now but it won’t be long before they start stacking up. He called this a "kabuki dance of litigation to sort out who is liable for what”.

Talking about Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which was signed by President George W Bush in May 2008, Edward Abrahams, executive director of the Personalized Medicine Coalition said, "The psychological security regarding employment and insurance was a stumbling block to the advancement of personalized medicine. Moving that boulder from the train tracks was a major accomplishment."