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Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS)

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)

Reference Number: MTAS-1242
Reviewed Date: 10/21/2022

Purpose of GINA: To prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment

Employers: Applies to employers with 15 or more employees 180 days to file a charge

Covered Entities: Employers such as employment agencies, labor organizations, and joint labor-management training and apprenticeship programs

Effective Dates: GINA is not retroactive.

Law passed: May 21, 2008

Effective for health insurers: May 21, 2009

Effective for employers: November 21, 2009

EEOC’s final regulations effective: January 10, 2011

On May 21, 2008, President George W. Bush signed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) into law. GINA at 42 U.S.C. 2000(ff) et seq., is an important bill because it protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on their genetic information as it pertains to health insurance coverage and employment in all 50 states. The late Senator Ted Kennedy called it “the fi rst major new civil rights bill of the new century. (Public Law 110-233, 122 Stat. 881, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000(ff) et seq.)

GINA was enacted by Congress after the scientific community celebrated several critical successes in the field of genetics (notably, the decoding of the human genome and the creation and increased use of genomic medicine). With science advancing, so did the likelihood of a misuse of genetic information resulting in discrimination based on one’s genetic status, or the genetic health of one’s family. GINA was created to address concerns of the public about whether they may be at risk for losing employment opportunities, or being denied health insurance coverage when a genetic condition is known or determined during the course of employment or insurance coverage.

The intent of GINA was to limit the ability of employers and insurers to request, require, or purchase genetic information of individuals or their family members. GINA prohibits employers from using genetic information on applicants and employees (current and former) to make employment decisions. This includes labor union members and apprentices, and trainees.

GINA amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the Public Health Services Act (PHSA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Internal Revenue Code. GINA provisions were written with consideration of the named laws and final regulations are developed and enforced by Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The ramifications for GINA violations are available under Title VII. GINA does not supersede state or local laws that may provide greater protection. Often times, GINA works concurrently with other federal laws such as HIPAA, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).