University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law Review


Susannah Carr

Document Type



Current federal and state law is inadequate to protect employees from employer's misuse of their genetic information. Genetic information is knowledge of a person's genome that indicates a predisposition towards an illness, disease, or medical condition, where symptoms of the condition have yet to manifest themselves. Federal law protections are insufficient, and relevant state laws vary in their scope and application. Not only are employees unevenly protected across the United States, but varying standards also make complying with the law difficult for interstate employees.

To give employees sufficient protection and to facilitate employer compliance, Congress should pass a law specifically addressing genetic discrimination in the workplace. The law should have broad applicability, prohibit employers from using workers' genetic information in employment decisions, have limited exceptions for employer's requests for genetic information, enhance employee privacy protections, and create a private right of action.

Both the House and the Senate reintroduced identical Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Acts ("the bill"). This law provides employees with more protection than many similar state laws, while sufficiently protecting employers from being penalized for collecting genetic information in well-defined circumstances. This current proposed federal legislation incorporates many of the protections and exceptions necessary to create a thorough, fair, and effective genetic nondiscrimination law. To be complete, however, the bill should extend its coverage to both licensing organizations and employers acting as self-insurers. Additionally, the bill fails to include certain necessary protections and may not sufficiently anticipate future developments in genetic testing. Because the bill is relatively close to passing, lawmakers should keep it in its current form and eliminate its weaknesses by amending it in subsequent Congressional sessions.