Occupational Physicians Caution Use of Genetic Testing in the Workplace

Feb. 23, 2000
ACOEM recently applauded the efforts of the Clinton Administration in barring federal agencies from using genetic information in its hiring and promotion practices.

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) recently applauded the efforts of the Clinton Administration in barring federal agencies from using genetic information in its hiring and promotion practices.

In a statement ACOEM said it recognized that the greatest potential for the misuse of genetic testing in the workplace is discrimination in employability or insurability.

"Therefore, ACOEM strongly supports the development of federal policies which give workers the assurance that discrimination will not occur and which provide for the absolute confidentiality of genetic testing information."

Since 1994, ACOEM has cautioned that genetic testing should not be performed on current or prospective employees unless it is clear that the genetic trait being screened for would directly affect job performance, or would predispose a worker to significant, consistent adverse outcomes following an otherwise acceptable workplace exposure.

"Employees should always be informed of work-related genetic tests and should be able to participate on a voluntary basis," said ACOEM President Robert J. McCunney, M.D. "Employees must have a guarantee that test results will not be disclosed to others without their consent and they should have the right to obtain their test results upon request."

ACOEM's Code of Ethical Conduct prohibits physicians from releasing specific test results to employers, but does permit information that is derived from specific tests which would impact an employee's fitness to perform a particular job, to be given to employers.

According to ACOEM, the custodian of the workplace medical records, including genetic test information, should always be the physician or responsible health care provider.

"If performed, genetic testing should always be accompanied by appropriate genetic counseling," said McCunney.

ACOEM also recommends that insurability decisions of employees by employers or others should not be based on genetic status or be used to make decisions on the issuance or pricing of healthcare insurance.

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Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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