1998 Release: Ban on Genetic Discrimination

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Vice President Gore Calls for Legislation to Ban Genetic Discrimination

January 20, 1998

Vice President Al Gore today announced that the Clinton Administration is calling for legislation to bar employers from discriminating against workers in hiring or promotion because of their genetic makeup.

Gore made the announcement as he released an in-depth administration report, titled "Genetic Information and the Workplace." that demonstrates why American workers need federal protection from genetic discrimination in the workplace. The report was written by the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Justice.

"We want legislation that will prevent employers from requesting or requiring genetic information for hiring or for setting salaries; that will stop employers from using this genetic information to discriminate or segregate the workplace; and that will ensure that genetic information is not disclosed without the explicit permission of the individual," Gore said.

Gore made the announcement during the third annual James D. Watson Lecture at the National Academy of Sciences. The lecture is held each year by the Genome Action Coalition, a voluntary association of 125 patient advocacy and professional groups and bio-pharmaceutical companies, which seeks to engender support for genome research among policy makers and the public. The group focuses primarily on the Human Genome Project (HGP), the international research initiative to decipher the instructions encoded in human DNA.

Deputy Secretary of Labor Kitty Higgins, who discussed the specifics of the report, cited the legitimate fear among American workers that genetic information, which can improve their health, will jeopardize their job or deny them other opportunities.

"All of us should have the confidence that information to improve our lives won't risk our livelihoods. There should never be a tradeoff between health security and job security," Higgins said. "Everyone should have access to job opportunities - and the only test they should have to pass is a qualification test, not a genetic one."

"We knew from the beginning the Human Genome Project would deliver extraordinary opportunities to understand, treat and prevent human illness," said Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health. "We also knew it would present us with public policy challenges concerning the use of our personal genetic information. The Vice President's announcement today demonstrates that progress in social policy is an indispensable component of scientific research."

Contact:
Sharon Durham
Public Affairs Specialist
National Human Genome Research Institute

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Last Reviewed: September 2006