Last week, while I was out on vacation, Congress acted on a bill that may have some interest in Connecticut. However, because Connecticut already has a similar bill already on the books, it will probably have a minor impact on employers.

The U.S. Senate approved of legislation that would prohibit genetic discrimination in the workplace.   As reported by the Manpower Employment Law Blog, The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) sailed through the Senate on a 95-0 vote.  A House vote is expected shortly; you can check on the bill status of H.R. 493 here. courtesy creative commons flckr ynse photostream
Among other things, GINA would:

  • prohibit discrimination based on genetic information in hiring, firing, compensation and other employment decisions;
  • prohibit employers from collecting genetic information through workplace genetic testing or other means, with very narrow exceptions (e.g., monitoring the effects of hazardous workplace exposures);
  • prohibit health insurers and plans from requiring genetic testing and from discriminating based on genetic information in enrollment and premium-setting; and
  • impose strict workplace confidentiality/disclosure rules on all genetic information.

Senator Christopher Dodd expressed his strong support for the bill and posted his comments to his website, which you can find here

However, for employers in Connecticut, this should be old news. Connecticut already has a law that prohibits discrimination based on genetic information so I don’t anticipate that GINA, if passed, will a significant impact in Connecticut.  Conn. Gen. Stat. 46a-60(a)(11) states that it is illegal:

     (11) For an employer, by the employer or the employer’s agent, for an employment agency, by itself or its agent, or for any labor organization, by itself or its agent: (A) To request or require genetic information from an employee, person seeking employment or member, or (B) to discharge, expel or otherwise discriminate against any person on the basis of genetic information. For the purpose of this subdivision, "genetic information" means the information about genes, gene products or inherited characteristics that may derive from an individual or a family member.

To be sure, GINA has some additional provisions that will need to be looked at by employers in Connecticut.  But none of it is all that dramatic; Connecticut employers may want to await final passage of GINA before updating their policies on this issue.