When I was a kid I saw the 1997 film, Gattaca. The film is set in the not-so-distant future where employment and social standing is based on a human being’s genetic makeup. Human beings conceived through sexual intercourse are doomed to work low-wage jobs, and have a higher probability of inheriting a genetic disease, whereas humans designed via a geneticist are born into a life of endless possibilities. Any genetic deficiency or handicap is grounds for lawful discrimination. For example, if you were born with a heart condition you’d be more likely to find employment as a custodian rather than a scientist, as any high aspirations you might have would be virtually impossible to attain. I recently read that a House committee approved bill HR 1313, with 17 Democrats opposing it and 22 Republicans voting for it. HR 1313 is a bill that “would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information.” Such a bill will take discrimination to a level we’ve never seen before, increase the difficulty of finding employment, and punish employees for matters over which they have absolutely no control.
Under the guise of being an integral component of a workplace wellness program bill HR 1313 will enable discrimination through science, while violating an employee’s right to keep their health information private. Presently, most employment discrimination is based on sight, or rather what a potential employer interprets regarding race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. However, race and gender cannot always be determined by sight, so this bill will remedy that, allowing potential employers to discriminate against people of color and transgender people to their heart’s content. Refusing genetic testing can result in the employee being fined hundreds to thousands of dollars, but who’s to say it can’t result in a termination. Should a person be penalized for having a genetic mutation, or penalized or not hired for not being born with predominantly European DNA? What assurances do we have that bill HR 1313 won’t result in an increase of workplace discrimination?
I believe that genetic testing is wonderful, and can be potentially life saving. Genetic testing can also aid in predicting the quality of life of potential offspring in cases such as Tay-sachs disease, cancer, Sickle Cell Anemia, lymphoma, Crohn’s disease, von Willebrand disease, hemophilia, and disseminated intravascular coagulation. However, employees should not have their private health information violated for the sake of a “workplace wellness program.” Democrat, Republican, Independent, or whatever your political party affiliation, can we all just collectively agree that bill HR 1313 is not only unconscionable and completely insane, but will also likely be used for discriminatory practices?
Read more about bill HR 1313 on Mashable.