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Op-Ed: House bill lets employers to take DNA samples with no obligations

Why do employers need DNA samples? For “wellness programs”. Yep, the same psychos who make American workplaces a living hell are now allowed to run wellness programs for their miserably paid, often highly insecure employees.

HR 1313 is a virtual blank check for every tinpot tyrant in the employment sector.

The US is the sickest country in the Western world in employment terms, both in wages and workplace conditions. American wages and working conditions have long since fallen far behind other Western countries. The American workplace is a mass of malfeasances, misery, and misanthropic practices of all kinds.

I worked in the employment sector in the US and EU for about a decade, and it’s getting worse. America is now about 40-50 years behind Australia and Europe, for example. In Australia, you can get arrested for paying US minimum wage. In the US you get a government portfolio.

The House is now adding another millstone to employees, effectively demanding DNA collection. The same mentality replacing the Affordable Care Act is hard at work penalizing people for being employees and needing health care options. The options for workers are virtually non-existent, with expensive penalties of up thousands of dollars to employees, if they don’t provide their DNA samples.

Why do it at all? There aren’t too many good reasons, even theoretical good reasons, available. The workplace has managed to survive since the Industrial Revolution without genetic testing. Why start now?

Nor is the genetic technology spectacularly impressive. DNA samples may include current indicators of proneness to disease. “Current” means whatever the information is before it becomes obsolete, 10 minutes later.

Or, if you prefer, your info is current for a year or so before they find the Off switch for troublesome genes. Anyway, if there’s something which can be held against you, it probably will be found. It will then be handed directly to your employer under this legislation, for whatever use the employer deems fit.

The bill itself is a nasty, ALEC-like piece of work indeed. It tries to get around anti-discriminatory legislation by stating that “wellness programs” (how much more cynical can a mere two words be?) which meet some requirements of anti-discrimination laws are “ in compliance” with those laws.

Collection of information, furthermore, “shall not be considered unlawful” under this bill. This is farcical at best. Collecting information which has never been necessary to collect doesn’t make much sense. Add to this the fact it’s information which employers can use against employees, and are not directly required by law to keep secure or private, is OK, under this bill.

Note: There are no positives to giving your DNA to an employer. What are they going to do with it, give you an “Employee Genome of the Month” award? Not very likely, is it?

In the unlikely event that there’s no further agenda for HR 1313, the process of collection is a significant breach of even the theory of personal privacy. You can’t get a lot more private and personal than your DNA.

The more likely scenario is that HR 1313 will form the basis of further legislation aimed at workers and welfare recipients. Genetic testing already has an ideological foothold in insurance, which may well be the guiding light for this legislation.

The most cynical of all elements in the bill and the repeal of the ACA is the idea that wellness programs are a realistic health option. A wellness program, under the new GOP legislation, seems to be anything called a wellness program. Are there any specifics? Are there any guidelines? Not really. Will there ever be? Probably not.

HR 1313 is the GOP at its most mercenary, most anti-employee, and most pro-insurers. It’s a money grab. Don’t do the test, and you pay more. Do the test, and you pay whatever number the insurer thinks looks nice.

This is bill is yet another hoop for working Americans to jump through, for no obvious health benefit or any other reason. Under the Fourth Amendment, your house can’t be searched without a warrant. Under HR 1313, your entire genome can be searched by an act of Congress. The only un-Constitutional proviso in HR 1313 is that the Amendment states:

“…The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

If you interpret “secure in their persons” to include people’s personal biology, HR 1313 may be unconstitutional. You can interpret a DNA test as unreasonable, if you think it is. You could say your DNA has nothing to do with your employability, for example.

…Then all you have to do is convince a Supreme Court packed with Breitbart clones that it actually is unreasonable. Sorry, America, but you’re in for a hell of a ride with this one.

Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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