Employee data: Why firms need to know “GINA”

GINA Employer-run wellness programs aim to improve employee health outcomes, thus lowering health costs for companies and their team members.  

Along the way, companies and the firms they trust to administer wellness programs gather reams and reams of employee data, including genetic data.

Such data collection places numerous responsibilities on companies. For starters, there is the importance of protecting employee data from cyber criminals seeking to profit from the sale of employee data on the black market. Firms should have an up-to-date cybersecurity plan in place, one that includes cyber insurance.

Furthermore, the collection of employee data also means firms must be familiar with the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. Under this law, firms are allowed to collect some employee genetic information in connection with a company-offered wellness program.

However, according to GINA, it is unlawful for an employer “to fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge, any employee, or otherwise to discriminate against any employee with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment of the employee, because of genetic information with respect to the employee; or . . .  to limit, segregate, or classify the employees of the employer in any way that would deprive or tend to deprive any employee of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect the status of the employee as an employee, because of genetic information with respect to the employee.”

Companies who run afoul of GINA could find themselves subject to enforcement action from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For instance, a now-defunct New York nursing home and rehabilitation center agreed to pay $370,000 after being charged with requesting job applicants furnish family medical history during pre-employment medical exams.

Employers should have ample motivation to help their workers lead healthy lives, and wellness programs can play a key role in the process. And there’s little doubt that the data collected within wellness programs can help workers make healthy choices.

However, companies must be aware of what they can and can’t do with data collected from employees.

Have questions about GINA or wellness programs? The Plexus Groupe can help. Contact us at 847-307-6100 (Chicago) or 972-770-5010 (Dallas) and ask to speak with a client service team member. We’re here to help — and we’re happy to help.

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