If scientists ever do discover “the gay gene,” here’s one bit of good news: Under a new law, your future employer won’t be able to test you for it to see if you qualify for the job.
Without the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, businesses from the Fortune 500 to your local carpet cleaner can fire you whenever they want just for being queer. But the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act will at least preclude them from running genetic tests on you beforehand to learn whether you’re a ‘mo.
Sure, the GIN Act is mostly aimed at keeping employers from being able to require job applicants and employees from revealing whether they carry a certain gene that puts them at risk for cancer or disorder, but by default it’ll also prohibit them from running a queer test on you.
How come? Because employers are also the health insurers of so many, which represents a conflict of interest that lawmakers actually have a problem with! The law, passed last year, takes effect next weekend and is described by the New York Times as “the most important new antidiscrimination law in two decades.”
Beat that, ENDA.
Just be sure that you aren’t running your mouth about your sexuality — because eavesdropping on your genetics is still legal.
While the act makes it illegal for employers to intentionally acquire genetic information, it includes a “water cooler” exception, as in a case where a manager overhears one employee telling another that his father had a stroke.
Under the act, it is legal for a manager to garner genetic information from an obituary, for instance that an employee’s mother died of breast cancer. And if a manager asks why a worker took off a week to care for his father under the Family Medical Leave Act, it generally will not be considered illegal if the employer learns that the worker’s father has pancreatic cancer.
The act, however, prohibits use of such inadvertent knowledge to alter the terms, conditions or privileges of employment.
“The challenge becomes what if down the road, the employee has a lot of absences or his performance is off, and you discipline the employee,” said Michael P. Aitken, director of governmental affairs for the Society of Human Resource Management. “The employee could come back and say, ‘That’s because you knew I had a genetic marker.’ ”