Was The Settlement at BNR Fair? What is genetic testing? genetic testing is widely used by the modern medicine to find out whether the person has a genetic precondition of disease or whether he is likely to get such a disease. Genetic issues are often related to the themes of bioethics, human decision making and moral and legal issues. Genetic issues are often discussed in relation to ethical aspects, which seem to be mutually contradictory. Is society justified in insisting that people submit to genetic screening, counseling of prenatal diagnosis? Are organizations justified in submitting their employees to genetic testing without informing them? Lets dwell on the subject and answer these questions, basing on BNSP experience in genetic testing issue. First of all, lets try to understand whether the people should be submitted to genetic screening, counseling or prenatal diagnosis. The supporters of genetic screening adduce several arguments: Prenatal genetic screening will be able to find out the children with genetic defects The people will be required for a genetic testing and will know whether they have any genetic disease. In case the genetic screening will not be obligatory, various genetic diseases will continue to be passed from one generation to the other.
.".. research on the human genome and the resulting applications open up vast prospects for progress in improving the health of individuals and of humankind as a whole... such research should fully respect human dignity, freedom and human rights, as well as the prohibition of all forms of discrimination based on genetic characteristics," (UNESCO Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, ...
Genetic testing as well as use of information received in result of genetic testing is permitted to ensure workplace safety and health and to preserve research opportunities (Genetics Legislation, n.p.).
However, it is difficult to imagine that genetic testing can be used in a negative way (Eustice, n.p.).
John Wiebelhaus, a track maintenance foreman hired by Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad (BNSF).
Harry Zanville is the attorney of the union of railworkers in BNSF. John Wiebelhaus and Harry Zanville have accused the company of covert genetic testing. The company required its employees to take a medical examination. However, in March 2000, BNSF included in this examination a genetic factor only for some employees who claim work-related carpal tunnel syndrome.
(BNSF News release, February 12, 2001) According to accusation, 125 workers recently gave blood samples and at least 18 were unknowingly and without consent subjected to genetic testing (Eustice, n.p.).
John Wiebelhaus and Harry Zanville consider that the company is trying to wiggle out of paying millions of dollars for medical bills and disability to workers who develop carpal tunnel syndrome, using blood tests to prove predisposition to the disease (Eustice, n.p.).
The representatives of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE) filed the accusation on February 9 against Athena Diagnostics in Sioux City, Iowa and BNSW. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) joined them a bit later. On February 12 Mark C. Bennett agreed for a temporary restraining order according to which BNSF agreed to halt its coercive genetic testing program (VHL Family Alliance webpage, n.p.).
A month later, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has settled the first court action concerning the workplace genetic testing issue under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission insisted on ending genetic testing of employees who filed claims for work-related injuries based on carpal tunnel syndrome (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.p.).
There are several moral, ethical, legal, social and cultural issues with genetic screening at the workplace. The employers would like to subject their employees to genetic testing as they would like to know the genetic weaknesses and problems that an individual may have an according employ the individual or dismiss him (in case the employee is already employed). On the other hand, the employee has ...
According to Commission Chairwoman Ida L.
Castro, the EEOC sought the preliminary injunction to prevent irreparable harm to employees who faced the impossible choice of potentially losing their jobs or revealing their genetic makeup (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.p.).
EEOCs action allows Burlington Northern employees subjected to genetic testing to continue to work free of retaliation and future invasions of privacy in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to the Aprils settlement, the company recognizes that it made genetic testing. The settlement includes the following terms and conditions: BNSF shall not directly or indirectly require its employees to submit blood for genetic tests BNSF shall not analyze any blood previously obtained BNSF shall not evaluate, analyze or consider any gene tests analysis previously performed on any of its employees, and, finally, BNSF shall not retaliate or threaten to take any adverse action against any person who opposed the genetic testing or who participated in EEOCs proceedings What is more, EEOC will insist on punitive and compensatory damages up to $300,000 per individual (the statutory cap) for a class of claimants ranging from 20 to 30 BNSF workers who were either subjected to genetic testing or retaliated against for failing to submit to such tests (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, n.p.).
Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad denies it violated the ADA or engaged in any form of workplace discrimination (BNSF news release, May 8, 2002).
At the same time, the company agreed to pay up to a total of $2.2 million to those workers who were directed to appear for the medical examination for claims related to the genetic tests, as part of a larger settlement which included partial payments for claims filed under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (an act which regulates a railroad employers liability to its employees for on-duty injuries).
(BNSF news release, May 8, 2002) Taking into consideration all the information examined and discrimination issues involved, we can agree that the settlement at Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad is fair.
Ethics of Genetic Testing in the Workplace The case I will attempt to examine is Genetic Testing at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. This case involves a worker who was required to submit to genetic testing after receiving surgery on his wrists for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The worker (Gary Avery) was told to report for a mandatory physical after returning to work in which blood would be drawn ...
BNSF and EEOC Settle Genetic Testing Case Under Americans with Disabilities Act. FORT WORTH, Texas, May 8, 2002Retrieved May 11, 2006. http://www.bnsf.com/media/news/articles/2002/05/20 02-05-08-a.html BNSF Ends DNA Testing For Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. FORT WORTH, Texas, February 12, 2001. Retrieved May 11, 2006. http://wwwsearch.bnsf.com/search?q=cache:http://ww w.bnsf.com/media/news/articles/2001/02/2001-02-12b .html+Genetic+&output=xml_no_dtd&site=www_prod&ie= UTF-8&client=www_prod&oe=UTF-8&proxystylesheet=www _prod Eustice, C. Derailed By Genetic Testing. Retrieved May 11, 2006. http://arthritis.about.com/od/news/a/genetictestin g.htm The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
EEOC SETTLES ADA SUIT AGAINST BNSF FOR GENETIC BIAS. Retrieved May 11, 2006. http://www.eeoc.gov/press/4-18-01.html VHL Family Alliance. Genetic Testing Derailed at BNSF. Retrieved May 11, 2006. http://www.vhl.org/newsletter/vhl2001/01bhbnsf.htm.