Railroad to Advocate against Genetic Screening

April 12, 2001 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - After agreeing to halt the genetic testing of its employees, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad has pledged to advocate against genetic screening in employment decisions.

In an agreement with two unions, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE), the railroad recognized the necessity of legislation that limits the use of genetic testing and vowed to take the matter to Congress, according to BNA.

The unions and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had filed separate lawsuits, accusing the railroad of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by requiring employees, submitting claims of work-related carpal tunnel syndrome, to provide blood samples to determine a genetic propensity to the condition.

The railroad agreed to eliminate the testing in February, but negotiations between Burlington Northern and EEOC continued until April 10.

The parties settled out of court, with the railroad agreeing:

  • to stop all genetic testing of employees represented by the two unions
  • to destroy all blood samples and records of previous testing,
  • not to discipline any employee for failure to comply with requests for medical information connected to these tests, and
  • to actively lobby against genetic discrimination

Democrat-sponsored legislation, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment, is pending in both the House and Senate.

The bills would make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer, employment agency, labor organization, or training program to discriminate because of protected genetic information, and would make it illegal to request, require, collect, or purchase such information, the Bureau of National Affairs reports.

– Camilla Klein                         editors@plansponsor.com