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Fact Sheet: Genetic Testing

Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 151B as amended, through "An Act Relative to Insurance and Genetic Testing and Privacy Protection" makes it discriminatory for an insurance company or employer to use genetic information in any way.

What is "genetic information"? Any written, recorded individually identifiable result of a genetic test or explanation of such a result or family history pertaining to the presence, absence, variation, alteration, or modification of a human gene or genes.

What is the purpose of this law? The law aims to protect individuals' right to keep genetic test results private, and ensures that genetic information will not be used to a person's disadvantage by insurance companies or employers. The law prohibits disclosure of genetic test results without the individual's consent, any requirement of genetic test results as a condition of employment or insurance, and discrimination by insurance companies based on genetic test results.

Who enforces the law? This fact sheet focuses on the employment-related aspects of the law that are enforced by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. The Massachusetts Division of Insurance enforces the insurance-related aspects of the law, and questions can be directed to them at 617-521-7349.

What does it mean for employers? Employers are forbidden to use genetic information in making decisions relating to an employee or prospective employee. Employers may not require or induce disclosure of genetic information or submission to testing. Employers who require employees to undergo medical examination should confirm that the medical examination does not require the disclosure of genetic information. Employers should ensure that genetic information is not inadvertently provided to them, and that no employee's file includes genetic information of any kind.

What does it mean for an individual employee or prospective employee? It means that you cannot be subjected to genetic testing by your employer and that information based on your genetic testing cannot be used against you in any employment decisions.

IT IS UNLAWFUL FOR AN EMPLOYER:

  • to base employment decisions on genetic information (such as hiring or firing)
  • to use the results of a genetic test or genetic information to affect the terms, conditions, compensation, or privileges of a person's employment
  • to require or request genetic information as a condition of employment
  • to offer an inducement to take a genetic test or disclose genetic information
  • to question a person about previous genetic testing, or genetic information about themselves or family members
  • to seek, receive, or record genetic information