HR Administration

Complying With GINA

By Susan Hauser

Jul. 3, 2011

Follow these tips to stay in compliance with the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act:


•  Homework: Make sure you understand the complex definitions of “family members” and “genetic information” under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA. Know the difference between genetic information and other medical information.


•  Protection: Attach the “safe harbor” language suggested in the GINA regulations to just about every document that might result in the acquisition of genetic information.


•  Nix on family histories: Instruct health care providers (using safe harbor language) not to give genetic information about employees when asked for information. Also, instruct them not to take family histories during fitness-for-duty exams and the like.


•  Etiquette: Conduct training for acceptable language in commenting on an employee’s or employee’s relative’s health condition. Water cooler conversation with supervisors and managers shouldn’t be seen as probing. They also should walk away from health-related conversations to prevent overhearing genetic information.


•  Social Media: Evaluate supervisor-subordinate relations in social media and make necessary adjustments. Prohibiting social media connections between supervisors and subordinates might be necessary.


•  Order of the Court: Do not disclose genetic information in response to a subpoena or civil discover request, unless there is a court order that specifically asks for the genetic information.


•  Wellness: Don’t reward employees for divulging genetic information to wellness program administrators. Answering health risk assessment survey questions about genetic information must be strictly voluntary.


•  Post It: Prominently display a GINA poster in the workplace. The law requires workplaces to have GINA posters, so employees know their rights under the law. Make sure you have the 2011 version, which includes the final regulations, which went into effect in January. Otherwise, you could be fined as much as $100 for each offense.


•  Book It: Update your employee handbook regarding GINA.


•  File It: Keep all genetic information in medical files that are separate from personnel records.


Workforce Management Online, July 2011Register Now!

Susan Hauser is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon.

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