Genetic Testing in the Workplace

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Genetic testing probably would not be a bad thing to some if it was controlled and monitored. By testing employees who voluntarily submit to participate, the results could have an everlasting effect on the medical community and even be beneficial to the person. Unfortunately, like everything else, there is no guarantee that one would not be discriminated against because of the results. With that said, some people are not willing to subject themselves to genetic testing in the workplace.

Everyday life has given us enough to worry about on the job or just looking for a job could be a hassle in today’s society. With the unemployment rate at one of the highest in years, people just want to be given the same opportunity as everyone else. You used to worry about what your co-workers thought about you on a daily basis or how the boss may feel about your performance. Without these two, our jobs would be less stressful, but now, we have to add the possibility of genetic testing to the equation. One of our basic rights is the right not to be discriminated against because of color, creed, religion or race.

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Well, we may be able to recognize when we are being discriminated against because of our color or religion, but discrimination because of a genetic test is something different and new to many of us. Although many people have tried to fight and or still fighting the battle to make genetic testing in the workplace illegal, it still exists in some companies or corporations. There may not be many cases that have been fought or won against genetic test discrimination, but some felt it was necessary to implement laws and regulations against it.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 was one of the first to try and protect against genetic test discrimination in the workplace. This Act alone can not cover every situation that may occur. Combined with this Act, there is also the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2003. Hopefully, the two may provide legal assistance to those who have been discriminated against because of genetic testing. So, no matter how one would like to look at this situation, discrimination might occur visible or not.

Although, we may feel that it is unintentionally, discrimination may happen if genetic testing in the workplace was allowed. If companies or corporations were allowed to perform genetic testing on their employees or future employees, they may use the results in a negative way. One thing that concerns me about genetic testing in the workplace is discrimination. If allowed, companies or corporations will now be given another opportunity to discriminate against an employee or future employee.

We can usually tell when we have been discriminated against when it comes to race or religion; the more obvious ones. Now, people have to worry about discrimination because of a test that can neither confirm nor deny if someone will develop a disease in the future. If a genetic test shows that an employee may have the possibility of contracting a disease on the job, the company may not offer the person insurance or a comfortable amount of insurance. This side of the act is negative. Just because a member may develop a disease, he or she should not be denied life insurance or a decrease amount.

If a person applies for a job and is asked to submit to a genetic test, they may not get the job because they maybe at risk whether low or high of getting a disease because of their parents or grandparents. This decision is done solely to benefit the company or the life insurance company in question. Along with this, there are also other types of discrimination that a person may suffer. Another example of discrimination that can happen is job locality. A person may be denied a job in a prime location because of their genetic test.

Maybe the company thinks that it is for the employee’s best, but he/she may not. Now, we have an unhappy employee who will more than likely file a lawsuit against their employer which could cause a lot of disruption at work and at home. Also, some may fear that this test may limit them to certain benefits in the company. Companies may not offer them medical insurance or may limit the amount of insurance because of their condition.

Some people may not get that promotion that they have been waiting on because of the test. Not to say, that the company will tell them that the genetic test is the reason why hey were denied the same rights as the other employees. Now, their civil rights have been violated because of a genetic test. More importantly, people have been known to be discriminated against because of their health issues. If co-workers learn the results of the test, they may not want to work with the member which could cause more havoc at work. People tend to be scared of what they don’t know or don’t know about. Although, a person’s disease may not be harmful to his/her co-workers, they may not want to work with the person which is another subject in its own.

I do believe that genetic testing could be morally right if one could be guaranteed that the test would not be used for the wrong reasons and would be kept confidential. Basically, if we could properly control and regulate genetic testing and how it is used, it could be beneficial for some. Also, if we could guarantee that the playing field would remain the same for the employee who had the genetic testing done and that they would be promoted and be able to compete alongside their peers, people would probably volunteer without hesitation.

If we find out that because of someone’s genetics that they may be severely allergic to a cloth or anything in the company, the company can now prevent others from getting sick or ill by taking appropriate measures to weed out the cause. Not only would this alleviate a lot of pain on the employee, but now it has provided valuable information for future employees. He or she will know where they should not work because of their genetic make-up. Maybe if an employer could guarantee that they would not use the genetic test in a negative way, more people would participate in the program.

Through voluntary participation without reprisal, genetic testing could be beneficial for all. If giving someone a genetic test is for their own good, many probably wouldn’t mind doing it. If a company or corporation used the results of the test to allow the member medical treatment in hopes of helping them, this would be a more positive effect for the individual plus the results could help out the medical field. This would make this situation a win/win for both parties. The employee keeps his/her job and the company gains a valued employee.

Additionally, the medical world gets more documentation that can be used over a long period of time and may result in medical breakthroughs helping millions of people with the same disease or genetic make-up. The test could also make employers aware of the unseen dangers that lurk in their company that the eye can not see preventing suits which could cost an unknown amount. To me, when a company tries to use a genetic test for the wrong reason, they have lost the trust and confidence of their employees. They will not trust that their employer has their best interest in mind when it comes to promotions, life insurance or anything.

This alone can create an unhealthy workplace for everyone in the company. From a utilitarianism point of view, if a person may be a burden on the company or its employees, it may be beneficial not to hire or retain that person. Unintentionally, an employee can become a heavy load to his/her co-workers and the company when they call in sick and miss days, therefore, making the other personnel pick up the slack. This can become a disruption for all. The decision to fire or lay-off the employee would be better for all involved. With this decision, only one person suffers vice many. This is one of many sacrifices that maybe warranted.

It teaches us that sometimes a negative has to be done in order to produce positive effects. One of the many positive effects of this decision is only one person is standing in the unemployment line vice an unnumbered amount. Although, this maybe wrong in many people eyes; it maybe the best thing for the company and its employees. Sometimes, we have to do things that are positive for many while at the same time, hurting others. In conclusion, discrimination can happen in many different ways, but to me, genetic testing in the workplace maybe one that is unknown or unseen.


  1. Buckley & Klein. (2009). Genetic Testing in the Workplace? Meet GINA. Retrieved from http://www. atlantaemploymentlawyerblog. com/2009/05/genetic_testing_in_the_workpla_1. html
  2. Andre, C. & Velasquez, M. (n. d. ). Read My Genes: Genetic Screening in the Workplace Retrieved from http://www. scu. edu/ethics/publications/iie/v4n2/genes. html
  3. MacDonald, C. & Williams-Jones, B. (n. d. ). Ethics and Genetics: Susceptibility Testing In the Workplace. Retrieved from http://www. biotechethics. ca
  4. Duke, L. & Tech. Rev. 0015. (2002). Genetic Testing in the Workplace: The Employer’s Coin Toss. Retrieved from http://www. law. duke. edu/journals/dltr/articles/2002dltr0015. html

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Genetic Testing in the Workplace. (2018, Jul 31). Retrieved from

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