Atlanta federal district judge, Amy Totenberg, ruled “a genetic test is a genetic test is a genetic test.” Can’t really be any clearer than that. In 2008, Congress passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act,(GINA) protecting people against discrimination from health insurance companies and employment. However, in a case of two warehouse laborers in the photo above, Dennis Reynolds and Jack Lowe respectively; a genetics test was not used to unveil possible genetic disease risk factors; instead, it was used to clear their innocence in an ongoing incident at the warehouse.
There are enormous issues that unraveled through this odd case. The limits of genetic testing as stated in the article could open a Pandora’s box. Once DNA was obtained although for identification reasons, could’ve been tested for a wide range of sensitive information. GINA makes it illegal for employers to request, buy, or request genetic information with respect to the employee. So whether or not the test was used for identification or health purposes no longer mattered. Either reason, the resulting information obtained was through genetics testing and therefore illegal.
According to the article published in Nature, ‘Devious Defecator’ Case Tests Genetics Law, The two laborers were suspected of leaving piles of feces around the facility. In fear of losing their jobs, the two consented to having their mouths swabbed for DNA, and analyzed for genetic similarities to the feces. The warehouse’s operations company, Atlas Logistics Group Retail Services, claims that the tests provided no medical information, both employees retained their jobs, and there was no discrimination suffered. Although the genetic information obtained, did not include health information, it was obtained through genetics testing. Judge Totenberg ruled in favor of the two labors and said that it still falls under the GINA. This is the first case to go to trial to decide on damages on genetics discrimination not related to genetic health
Even though Lowe and Reynolds were cleared from suspicion, the after affect of the ordeal from humiliations couldn’t have been too warming. Many don’t realize how false accusations can affect a person emotionally and mentally. The company could’ve invested in cameras instead of requesting genetics information. For a fecal situation to initiate such a big ordeal, the company could’ve invested in a more productive issue instead of facing a 2.25 million dollar verdict. But in doing so, has led to questioning the limits of how far and what are the boundaries before one violates federal law. Genetics is still such a new study and not many legal guidelines are in place. It is still a growing field that needs more information to train and educate those unfamiliar with it.