November 12, 2010
Final regulations under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) will create new hurdles for company wellness programs, despite the bipartisan support such programs have otherwise received in Washington. Effective January 8, 2011, the final regulations, issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), allow employers to use genetic information generally provided as part of a wellness program – but the forms provided to employees must be clear that providing such information is purely voluntary. Meanwhile, the agency interprets the term "voluntary" in such a narrow manner that employers may not make a financial inducement or provide a benefit to encourage participation in a company wellness program that is contingent on providing family medical history or other genetic information. In issuing this regulation, the EEOC rejected the proposed definition of “voluntary” disclosure of genetic information that was submitted by the Association in its comments.