gene.jpgEmployers can’t use heredity against you.

It’s bad enough that employers sometimes discriminate against people because of their gender, race, religion or disability. Suddenly, thanks to genetics and genetic testing, we all had to worry about being the victims of bias because of what could be future illnesses and disabilities.

Let’s say your boss hears you talking about your sister’s breast cancer, and figures there’s a chance you may get it some day and end up costing the company big health care bucks.

What if that boss fired or demoted you as a result? Is this legal?

“No way,” according to long-awaited new rules published this week by the federal government.

In 2008, the of the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, known as GINA, was passed by Congress and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission just released the final regulations governing GINA.

“While fulfilling the law’s purpose to protect individuals from genetic discrimination, I believe these final regulations properly balance and reflect the needs and realities of the workplace and preserve the appropriate means for employers to offer health and wellness plans,” said EEOC Commissioner Victoria A. Lipnic.

For some labor law experts, the regulations don’t go far enough in explaining the provisions under GINA.

“The EEOC has clearly made an effort to enable GINA to be administered and enforced in a manner consistent with related laws,” said Lawrence Z. Lorber, a management-side attorney with law firm Proskauer. “The regs still create ambiguities with respect to other key areas including inadvertent collection of genetic information which will have to be sorted out in litigation unfortunately.”

But, he added, “on balance, the regulations are a positive development.”

Here’s a good overview of your rights under GINA:

An employer may never use genetic information to make an employment decision because genetic information doesn’t tell the employer anything about someone’s current ability to work.

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