Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 was passed by Congress in response to patients and employees who were concerned they could lose their jobs or health insurance if tests revealed detailed family medical history. Under the purview of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Act requires employers (such as Texas A&M University) to take affirmative steps to avoid receiving genetic information about applicants, employees, or any of their family members.

What Texas A&M University Must Do to Comply With GINA

  1. Medical forms must contain "safe harbor" disclaimer language which instructs the physician not to provide genetic information of the employee. Such prohibited genetic information includes the employee's family medical history, the results of an employee or family member's genetic tests, etc.
  2. Administrators and HR Liaisons must always use updated Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) certification and return-to-work forms directly from the Human Resources website, as those forms are the most current and are GINA-compliant. The University may be exposed to charges of GINA violations if an employee's genetic information was received on an outdated medical form.
  3. Administrators and supervisors must refrain from searching internet sites or other open documents where genetic information for employees would most likely be found.
  4. Management may not make personnel or hiring decisions based on acquired genetic information.
  5. Human Resources Liaisons or other administrators must limit the amount of information an employee's direct supervisor receives about his/her employee's health condition. For example, a supervisor may know about the duration of an employee's condition, the need for FMLA leave, or may know of any return-to-work restrictions placed on the employee; however, the supervisor should not know about the employee's specific medical diagnosis.
Is the University in violation of GINA law if an administrator or manager inadvertently receives genetic information on one of his employees?
No. GINA law restricts an employer's acquisition of genetic information from its employees; however, employers are generally protected against charges of a violation as long as management does not act on the inadvertently acquired information. Examples of inadvertent acquisitions of genetic information that are protected include, but are not limited to:
  • a manager overhearing an employee talking about a family member's illness;
  • a Human Resources Liaison receiving genetic information on a Family and Medical Leave Act certification form that has the required disclaimer language; or
  • a hiring supervisor, while searching the internet for a reason other than to obtain genetic information on an applicant, learns of the candidate's family genetic history.

Resource used to develop this document

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Genetic Information Discrimination