11/23/2009 - Last month, Matt Williams, an adjunct professor at the University of Akron, opened an e-mail from his bosses about the school's new rules for hiring and was "absolutely blown away," he says, "when I saw the reference to collecting DNA samples."
The university was saying it could ask new workers for a DNA sample — to run background checks. But Williams knew his DNA could also be used to discover the most private of information about his health — like his genetic risk for cancer, heart disease or mental illness.
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The school's policy seems to violate the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), says Susannah Baruch of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University.
"Most generally," she says, "GINA prohibits health insurers and employers from using your genetic information against you." The law went fully into effect Nov. 21, and it prevents health insurers from collecting genetic information to make decisions about the insurance people get or how much it costs. The law also says an employer can't use it to make decisions about hiring, firing or job promotions.
Listen to the story or read the transcript When Your Boss Wants Your DNA on NPR's Web site.
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Genetics & Public Policy Center Web site or visit the Genetics and Public Policy Centeron PewHealth.org.