Burlington Northern Settles Genetic Testing Lawsuit

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) agreed Friday to\r\nsettle a union lawsuit filed after the railroad secretly subjected\r\nemployees to genetic testing.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) agreed Friday to settle a union lawsuit filed after the railroad secretly subjected employees to genetic testing.

The railroad agreed to stop genetic testing of employees represented by the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.

Burlington Northern also agreed to destroy the test results and blood samples from the 18 workers who were tested.

The results also will be purged from the employees'' records, according to a copy of the settlement.

The railroad also said it would seek federal legislation to limit the scope of genetic testing by employers. As part of the settlement, the railroad denied violating any law.

There was no mention of damages in the settlement other than the railroad agreeing to pay $39,500 in legal fees.

Last month the company offered an apology to its employees who were secretly subjected to genetic testing.

Fort Worth, Texas-based BNSF was conducting the testing to see if employees were predisposed to carpal-tunnel syndrome, a wrist condition believed to be caused by repetitive hand motions.

BNSF agreed in February to stop its testing program after the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit contending it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It was the first time that EEOC had challenged genetic testing.

According to BNSF, about 125 of the company''s 40,0000 employees filed claims since March 2000 for carpal tunnel syndrome-related injuries.

EEOC charged that a worker who refused to provide a blood sample after filing an injury claim was threatened with termination.

BNSF said none of the employees who completed medical examinations to support their claims received disciplinary action for refusing to take a blood test.

Burlington Northern''s testing program came to light when workers from Nebraska, North Dakota and Minnesota complained to the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way.

The EEOC lawsuit is still pending.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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