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Daily Action: No Genetic Testing Requirements in the Workplace

Rep. Julia Brownley: 
DC: (202) 225-5811
Thousand Oaks: (805) 379-1779
Rep. Ted Lieu:
DC: (202) 225-3976 
LA: (323) 651-1040
Rep. Steve Knight:
DC: (202) 225-1956
Simi Valley: (805) 581-7130

Short Script:
Hello! My name is _______, and I am a constituent of Rep. __________'s in ____________, California. I'm calling to urge the congressperson to oppose H.R. 1313, the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act. There's nothing wrong with wellness programs in general, but companies must not be allowed to coerce employees into undergoing genetic testing in order to receive financial benefits like lower healthcare costs. The financial and privacy concerns, and the undermining of workplace rights that the bill represents, are why dozens of health and privacy advocacy groups have come out against the bill. The congressperson should as well. Thank you!

Last week the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed the “Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act." This bill was written with the intention of helping employers offering workplace wellness programs to gain more savings in their contributions to employees' healthcare plans. However, one way in which it helps businesses achieve those savings is by allowing them to coerce employees into submitting to genetic testing. The bill strips away health privacy protections enacted in the American with Disabilities Act of 1990, as well as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). If it becomes law, employees who refuse such testing could be subject to far higher insurance premiums as part of their employer-provided healthcare plans, or other penalties.

Traditionally, employee-wellness programs incentivize employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle -- walk 10,000 steps a day, quit smoking, lower one's body fat, blood pressure or cholesterol, etc. In return for taking part in these programs -- currently offered by 83% of employers -- employees at many companies receive small rewards (gift cards, monetary bonuses, etc.) though some are awarded healthcare-premium savings if they meet their targets. None of those problems require genetic testing to identify, however. In addition to the unfair costs of a worker's refusal to submit, H.R. 1313 would allow employers to turn their wellness plans into means of obtaining sensitive information about employees' genetic profiles -- information that might be used in making employment decisions.