A new bill, H.R. 1313, moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing and enroll in a mandatory vaccine program or risk losing their job. Today, laws including the 2008 Genetic Privacy and Nondiscrimination Act (known as GINA) prohibits giving employers such power over their employees.
If we let Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, who introduced this new legislation, have her way, employees will be stripped of all their privacy rights. Furthermore, H.R. 1313, also called the “Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act,” will give power to employers to hire or fire people based on the provided health information.
The new bill sneakily gets around previous bills that protect your privacy through explicitly stating that GINA and other privacy protection programs such as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act do not apply when genetic tests or vaccines are part of a “workplace wellness” program.
“What this bill would do is completely take away the protections of existing laws,” Jennifer Mathis, director of policy and legal advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a civil rights group, recently said in a congressional testimony.
According to an employer group, employers need these changes because those two landmark laws are “not aligned in a consistent manner” with workplace wellness programs which were created during the Obama administration. Though these programs are “voluntary,” people who do not participate must pay thousands of dollars more in premiums and deductibles. If the new H.R. 1313 bill passes, employees who do not voluntarily enroll in these programs could face being fired too.