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Wellness Plans and Employee Genetic Information
07/27/2012

I was interviewed for and quoted in an article (subscription required) in today's Wichita Business Journal highlighting the risk that an employer's wellness program might cross the line and result in the collection of employee genetic information in violation of the federal Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The article is short and so does not get into the nuances of what is permitted and what is not, but the basic point is a good one: If you're asking employees to fill out a health risk assessment or similar questionnaire, you need to be thinking about the GINA requirements.

Here are some specific points to keep in mind:

  1. If you're using a vendor to run your wellness program, they likely will understand the law, but it's still your responsibility to make sure you're in compliance. At a minimum, you'll want to review (with legal counsel) the questionnaires and other documents employees will be asked to complete to see if there are any red flags.
  2. Genetic information, as defined for purposes of GINA, is broader than you might think. Family medical history, for example, is considered genetic information.
  3. Although the safe bet is to simply not request that employees provide family medical history or other genetic information, there are circumstances when it can be ok. In general, disclosures in connection with a wellness plan that are entirely voluntary and not made in connection with health insurance enrollment or underwriting are permitted.
 


Editors
Don Berner Image
Don Berner, the Labor Law, OSHA, & Immigration Law Guy
Boyd Byers Image
Boyd Byers, the General Employment Law Guy
Jason Lacey Image
Jason Lacey, the Employee Benefits Guy
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