Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Do you know when you can collect employees’ genetic information?

Apple recently announced it will begin offering its employees free genetic testing through its subsidiary, AC Wellness (an entity Apple created last year to provide primary care services exclusively to its employees and their dependents).

According to CNBC, Apple is trying to move health care at its employee clinics “from reactive to proactive, as genetic tests can offer a window into health risks down the line. In some cases, patients can take preventative steps to reduce their likelihood of getting a disease.”

Medical experts have also speculated that this program could help Apple quietly test new products or ideas without risking leaks. And this is where my employment law Spidey sense starts tingling.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act only allows employers to obtain an employee’s genetic information in six defined circumstances.

  • Where the information is acquired inadvertently.
  • As part of health or genetic services, including wellness programs, provided on a voluntary basis.
  • In the form of family medical history, to comply with the certification requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act, state or local leave laws, or certain employer leave policies.
  • When the information comes from sources that are commercially and publicly available, such as newspapers, books, magazines, and even electronic sources.
  • As part of genetic monitoring that is either required by law or provided on a voluntary basis.
  • By employers who conduct DNA testing for law enforcement purposes as a forensic lab, or for human remains identification.

That’s it. Anything else violates GINA. While Apple certainly has a team of lawyers larger than most law firms available to advise it on this offering, I’d still caution them (and you) to tread very carefully before implementing any programs that could cause an employer to take possession of an employee’s genetic information.

* Image by mcmurryjulie from Pixabay