Can Employers Put Genetic Information to Good Use?
Journal of Law and Health, Vol. 16, p. 9, 2001-02
7 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2013
Date Written: 2001
In my talk today I am going to try to answer the question: Can employers put genetic information to good use? Preparing this talk was a challenge because it required me to switch sides of the table. Having represented plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases for ten years, my inclination is to focus on the ways that employers can use genetic information to the detriment of their workers. I chose to talk about the value of genetic information from the employers' perspective because I wanted to force myself to engage in a disciplined study of the issues, rather than simply don the hat of an employee advocate. Many employee advocates argue that employers should never have any access to their employee's genetic information. What I want to do today is identify situations in which employers could use employees' genetic information to benefit themselves and their employees. In giving these examples, I am not advocating that employers have unlimited access to employees' genetic information. Rather, I am suggesting that with adequate controls there is the potential for employers to utilize employees' genetic information in ways that are socially valuable. For the purpose of this talk, I am focusing on employees whose genetic propensities for certain diseases are not yet expressed, understanding, of course, what Dr. Zahka said earlier, that this can be a hard line to draw. There are two ways to think about using genetic information in the employment context. One is to look at an individual employee's genetic information and the other is to focus on the genetic traits represented by a pool of employees.
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