Final GINA Regs Delayed; GINA & Social Media Considerations for Employers

Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (“GINA”) makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants because of genetic information. It prohibits using genetic information to make employment decisions, prohibits acquisition of genetic information by employers, and limits disclosure of genetic information by employers. (Harassment and retaliation are also forbidden.) Title II took effect on November 21, 2009. The proposed regulations were published last year, and the final regulations were initially expected to be published in May of 2010, but publication of the final rule has been delayed.

This leaves employers (and their lawyers) in interpretation-limbo a while longer. With respect to social media issues specifically, GINA makes the mere acquisition of genetic information illegal. Because the Act broadly defines the term “genetic information” (including even medical conditions of family members), checking out an employee’s or applicant’s Facebook profile could easily result in a violation. For example, if an employer found an employee’s status update saying he is raising money for multiple sclerosis in honor of his father who is suffering from it – just getting that information could be a violation.

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