Unless you live far from your neighbors, you probably cover up your windows at night or when you’re away from home. We are hardwired to make sure that we keep our privacy. Nobody likes prying eyes.
Since Americans value their homes, their security, and their privacy so much, it’s hard to believe that many people would support the government allowing their job peak inside their bodies. A right to privacy is something that people talk about being a part of the Constitution. But the US Congress could now pass a bill that would allow employers to require employees to give them access to their genetic testing results.
What are genes and why should I care? Your genes are what make you unique. They determine your eye color, hair color, height, and everything others can see when we think of you. But most things in your genes can’t be easily known, like whether you might get a certain kind of cancer, or could pass a disease on to your children without a test.
Researchers are constantly making discoveries about genes, including who will get certain diseases later in life, like heart disease or diabetes. Lots of people choose not to have testing even if they think they might have concerns about their own genes.
How could this happen? How could the government think about allowing employers to look at employees’ genes? Some employers have a workplace wellness program that offers discounts or health insurance, for example, if an employee completes assessments on their health risks. Sometimes they charge employees more for being overweight, or smoking. Those employers value their bottom line more than they value privacy.
But for years employers have been stopped from discriminating on the basis of what your genes say about you. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) say that making employees share this very private information is against the law.
What happens if you tell your employer, “No, thank you. I don’t want to provide my most private information to you just because you asked for it.” The legislation now in the US House of Representatives would allow employers to penalize you by hitting your pocketbook where it hurts: take it raise your health insurance rates back up to 30%. That could mean that if you pay $15,000 in health premiums, you could be charged an extra $3000 for choosing to stay private!
This legislation was introduced by Representative Virginia Foxx, from North Carolina’s 5th District. That district covers Winston-Salem. To call Representative Foxx or your own representative the number is (202) 225-3121.
The attorneys at Johnson & Groninger understand how important your job and your privacy are. If you have questions about whether you have been discriminated against because of a disability, call Valerie Johnson at 919-240-4054.