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Genetic Discrimination in the IT Workplace

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the hide-your-nail-clippings dept.

Privacy 556

MisterTut writes "In what could be a troubling trend, one employer- the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway -was found to have secretly run unproven genetic tests on workers suffering Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The company was trying to prove that they were not culpable for cases of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from which the employees were suffering. The ethical considerations of such testing, covert and illicit or not, are profound for those of us working in the IT industry."

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And what if... (5, Insightful)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287671)

...a company is not culpable for, say, Carpal Tunnel in a particular worker, because it ultimately is shown to have a genetic component, and the company has already taken reasonable, industry- and regulatory agency-accepted, good-faith steps to mitigate it, but can't be prevented with this type of work in this type of employee (except by taking extreme measures and/or changing the person's job completely)?

That makes a lot of assumptions, but in that event, why would/should the employer be responsible? Should an employee have to pay worker's compensation claims for events that it is not primarily responsible; i.e., events that it has already taken steps to prevent? (Sure, you can argue "Well, Person X wouldn't have gotten Carpal Tunnel at all if they weren't in that job, even if they were genetically predisposed to it", assuming that is established at some point, for the sake of argument. But is the employer always, then, responsible? Under what conditions are they not responsible?)

And further, especially for an at-will employer, why would it not want to avoid workers who won't be able to effectively perform certain tasks, or workers who statistically may become liabilities in the future? What is the source for the reasoning that everyone has a "right" to work, and to work for a particular employer, to those who believe that?

I'm most certainly not saying employers should run secret genetic tests without employee consent. I'm also not making an argument that such testing, even with consent, should necessarily become commonplace. These are larger questions.

And on another note, why is every trend always "troubling", every impact "profound"? I find it amusing that those who would, say, be fully in support of embryonic stem cell research, apparently throwing any ethical concerns to the wind [slashdot.org] , all of a sudden see "troubling" ethical implications for employers trying to use the same essential tools.

Employers aren't always bad; aren't always in the wrong. You can make assertions that they might gravitate that way, and cite examples, but that doesn't automatically mean all employers' decisions are always wrong and worthy of suspicion, and all employees' decisions and actions are always right and worthy of protection. Note again that I am NOT defending Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway's decision, or anything having to do with this specific case. I'm speaking in generalities here, and am honestly curious as to peoples' thoughts.

Re:And what if... (3, Insightful)

Peyna (14792) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287729)

And on another note, why is every trend always "troubling", every impact "profound"? I find it amusing that those who would, say, be fully in support of embryonic stem cell research, apparently throwing any ethical concerns to the wind, all of a sudden see "troubling" ethical implications for employers trying to use the same essential tools.

Who are these "those who would"? I don't recall any information on the number of people who fully support all embryonic stem cell research also being troubled by employers engaging in the practices in this article.

Re:And what if... (-1, Troll)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287778)

Who are these "those who would"? I don't recall any information on the number of people who fully support all embryonic stem cell research also being troubled by employers engaging in the practices in this article.

There are plenty of those people here; i.e., people who berate and denigrate any opposition on ethical grounds to embryonic stem cell research, but would likely find major "ethical" problems with employer genetic testing, even with consent.

If you're not one of them, congratulations. You're not a hypocrite.

Re:And what if... (4, Insightful)

Peyna (14792) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287829)

I'm still waiting for evidence. It's just so popular to say that people on Slashdot are hypocrites without actually providing any evidence other than you remember from a past discussion a lot of comments advocating one point of view, and now in this discussion there are a lot of comments advocating another point of view.

I'm kind of tired of comments like that.

Re:And what if... (0, Troll)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287903)

Without someone directly acknowledging that they are one of those people now in response to your query (which no one would do), it's a little difficult to "prove" in the fashion you desire. I find it extremely hard to believe that you're honestly asserting that none of the slashdot commenters advocating "one point of view" are also amongst the persons advocating "another (essentially opposite) point of view". I'm not saying all slashdot commenters are like this, but even you must admit that there are plenty. It's not like only people of one mind comment on one article, and a whole other demographic unearths itself and is commenting on this article. It's the same basic core group of people, of which some of the individuals are the same.

I kind of agree, but... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287748)

I almost think if it's going to be acceptible for an employer to not be liable for an employees carpal tunnel, it also means they must at least notify an employee of susceptibility as soon as tests reveal it as a possibility (as it would seem unethical to let a worker continue in a job where they would be predisposed to harm without informing them). One could argue for legal requirements that an employer can only be exempt if they test workers at time of hire.

That's all pretty onerous (having to test anyone that would type!) so it seems like eventually some sort of insurance would arise so that companies could shrug off testing every worker, and the insurance would pay out any claims that arose. An interesting question for the future though, about how much genetic testing will be required just to be employed.

Re:I kind of agree, but... (1)

bluprint (557000) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287811)

I'm curious, why is the employer always liable for any dangers related to a job? Why is some CEO or HR person in an IT company any more knowledgable about carpal tunnel than anyone else? Why are they expected to be?

Maybe the real ethical violation is people getting paid for an injury they most likely knew was possible.

Re:I kind of agree, but... (1)

romeo_in_blk_jeans (782924) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287908)

You mean, like, compensation to a cop's family when said cop gets shot while trying to keep your butt safe?

Or compensation to a worker when he loses an arm while working around heavy machinery?

Or compensation to...Do I really need to continue?

It's the same exact principle.

Re:And what if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287763)

In general, I don't trust employers because of the power imbalance in the relationship. I have, fortunately, managed to secure employment with a fairly relaxed company with exceedingly understanding management, but it's always hanging over my head that I am replaceable.

Because of that, I'm leery of anything that might give an employer an additional hook on me.

Re:And what if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287780)

"I'm sorry. The insurance won't cover it. If he fell--"

~Gattaca

So where exactly does it all stop?

Profoundly troubling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287790)

why is every trend always "troubling", every impact "profound"?

They aren't. However, if something is neither troubling or profound, why would anyone bother writing about it?

(posting a/c because I once wrote a very troubling and profound piece called "how to buy a cat", which kinda kills my argument...:)

What I'm wondering is why folks think this should only worry IT folks. Every office worker uses a computer these days, and what's more, folks in factories have a MUCH harder time with various repetitive stress injuries. Ther are folks who made minimum wage cutting up chickens at Tyson's for ten years who are now disabled from CTS.

In short, if you are genetically disposed to CTS or other repetitive strss injury, you essentially have no place in ANY workplace.

What to do then? Buy lottery tickets? Move to France?

It's essentially a "pre-existing condition" (5, Insightful)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287826)

Insurance companies and businesses have long flip flopped on the concept of "pre-existing conditions". Those are cases where a person is hired who has medical conditions that are potentially expensive to treat (e.g. diabetes, cancer, AIDS, etc.).

It used to be that insurers tried hard not to pay for conditions that existed before the person came onto the plan. As you might expect, it was hugely unpopular (insurance companies really do listen to people) as well as expensive to administer (it's expensive to decide what's pre-existing and what isn't).

I see this as the same way. When you hire a bunch of people, they'll have a range of health issues, some obvious and some hidden. Sure it's possible to try and figure out who might get what conditions, but it's not worth it. When dealing with millions of people being insured, it's typically easier to simply manage the overall risk and adjust prices accordingly. Micromanaging at that level is expensive and wasteful.

Re:It's essentially a "pre-existing condition" (1)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287850)

Hello,

Thanks for a thoughtful reply. I'm actually in strong agreement with what you say. What might be worrisome if it eventually happens that such testing becomes specific, routine, and inexpensive enough to allow insurance companies and/or employers to feel they can reasonably make such exclusions. Even in that case, it still might ultimately be that it's just easiest to manage risk overall.

Re:It's essentially a "pre-existing condition" (1)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287867)

Bingo! Unless these genetic tests become unbelievably cheap then they'll never catch on in the insurance industry, and maybe not even then

Re:And what if... (1)

Jeff Molby (906283) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287838)

That makes a lot of assumptions, but in that event, why would/should the employer be responsible? Yes, that is what the insurance is for. An employer can probably reduce their insurance premium by showing the insurer that they have taken all reasonable precautions, but the workman's compensation law (in Michigan, at least) does not require any negligence on the part of the employer. It simply has to be shown the injury is work related. /IANAL, but I did have to file a claim for carpal //Not sure about the testing, but I can't see how it's a good thing.

Re:And what if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287839)

You must be new to Slashdot, since your comment is (1) way too sensible and thoughtful, and (2) doesn't go along with the acceptable groupthink.

Re:And what if... (2, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287843)

Well, as you have laid it out, if the company had followed all relevant procedures relating to workplace safety, they shouldn't be held accountable for a workers injuries, regardless of testing for genetic predisposition. It pains my lil' leftist hippy heart to say that, but it's true.

Of course if we had universal health care like most industrialized nations, it wouldn't be an issue. :-P

As for your digression (cough*TROLL*cough) into stem cell land, there are two distinct issues: research into a life saving technology and invasion of privacy. Just because they happen to both be related to genetics in some vague way doesn't mean they are the same. Tractors and tanks both use treads but I fully endorse the use of one and not the other. Does that make me some kind of hypocrite?

Employers actions are not always wrong and employers actions not always right, to be sure. What I protest is the system that gives the concerns of one precedence over the other, one more power than the other, one more status than the other in complete disproportion to the amount of societal good one does over the other.

Fault is irrelevant (1)

Jeff Molby (906283) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287871)

That makes a lot of assumptions, but in that event, why would/should the employer be responsible?

Yes, that is what the insurance is for. An employer can probably reduce their insurance premium by showing the insurer that they have taken all reasonable precautions, but the workman's compensation law (in Michigan, at least) does not require any negligence on the part of the employer. It simply has to be shown the injury is work related.

/IANAL, but I did have to file a claim for carpal
//Not sure about the testing, but I can't see how it's a good thing.
///Now with better formatting

Re:And what if... (4, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287890)

Employers aren't always bad; aren't always in the wrong. You can make assertions that they might gravitate that way, and cite examples, but that doesn't automatically mean all employers' decisions are always wrong and worthy of suspicion, and all employees' decisions and actions are always right and worthy of protection.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "power corrupts?"

Employers have a lot of power over a great many individuals. Employers get bigger and bigger, consolidating into fewer opportunities for work. It is at the point where a few major players control all opportunity to work in certain fields. Collective employment is only occasionally balanced by collective employees in the form of unions. Even when it is, power usually concentrates into a few hands within the unions and corruption and collaboration are commonplace.

This leaves the average individual worker in a very precarious place. Individuals in general don't have the money, influence, or voice to fairly balance their interests with those of a large employer. Given all of the above, it is indeed troubling when an employer is shown to be abusing that power in a new way. When that power is abused in a way that invades the privacy of individuals and opens the door to even more prejudice (which already abounds) then it is profoundly troubling.

...employers trying to use the same essential tools.

Tools are only a means to an end. I don't object to people owning firearms. I do object to people murdering innocent people with firearms. Those beliefs are not contradictory.

I'm speaking in generalities here, and am honestly curious as to peoples' thoughts.

In general employers are only interested in making the largest profit possible for themselves and sometimes for their shareholders. As powerful entities motivated solely or for a large part by greed and with no inherent interest in the welfare of their employees, they need to be watched carefully and regulated by the people to protect the people. Theoretically the government acts in the best interests of the people, but it has been shown time and again that large companies have significant influence over the government even when acting against the interests of the public.

Basically, large companies have proven themselves untrustworthy (in general) and dangerous to the well being and rights of the individual. They have also been able to corrupt the government to the detriment of the individual. I'd say any behavior they show that is damaging to the individual is troubling, wouldn't you?

Life Imitates Art (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287672)

Sounds like Gattaca [imdb.com] . So how much would it cost to run these "unproven genetic tests," I'd imagine it's quite expensive. Besides how much of it genetics and how much is just plain wear and tear, if I spent most of my life hunched over a keyboard typing or "playing racket ball" ... oh dammit. No genetic discrimination!

Re:Life Imitates Art (1)

TurdTapper (608491) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287751)

I actually enjoyed Gattaca, but still very scary.

This will probably open some new markets tho. Before too long, someone with real Carpal Tunnel could sell a DNA sample to someone looking to get a big check from their employer.

And once it advances to employment based on how 'smart' your DNA says you are, very intelligent people will be able to sell theirs as well.

Of course, it goes without saying that I'd be able to sell mine...*cough* *cough*

You might say... (1)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287674)

... its a brave new world??

dangerous (5, Funny)

chez69 (135760) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287681)

when they find the slashdot reading gene, we are all screwed

Re:dangerous (1)

ectoraige (123390) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287762)

when they find the long hair smelly's gene, we are all screwed

Re:dangerous (4, Funny)

JamesD_UK (721413) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287865)

slashdot reading gene

It's okay. I've read that this gene is never passed on to a subsequent generation.

Re:dangerous (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287872)

I wouldn't say so, you could buy "anti-slashdot" vaccines and stop being a nerd! :P Girls, here i come!

Re:dangerous (1)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287875)

My last employer conducted a series of genetic tests and then proceeded to fire all of us and replace the entire staff with monkeys, since they're 99% identical to humans but work for bananas.

What?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287682)

You want ethics and morals in science! Barbarian!

If the causes are genetic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287684)

then how would your employer be liable? And why should they be liable?

Genetic Discrimination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287686)

Gattaca anyone?

Does this mean... (1)

TheOtherAgentM (700696) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287690)

Can I get away with not working and point to my genetics? Any excuse not to work is greatly appreciated.

Re:Does this mean... (1)

Poromenos1 (830658) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287849)

Indeed it does. But don't expect to get paid :P

Genetic Testing !Consent == Invasion of Privacy (4, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287696)

I'm thinking that this issue should be fairly cut-and dry...genetic testing without properly obtained consent (or a lawfully obtained court order), should, and must, be considered an invasion of privacy.

From TFA:
In 2003 and again in this 2005 session, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment. That bill -- introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, but with co-sponsors including Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, Democrats of Washington -- now awaits action in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation is supported by the Bush administration and if enacted into law would ensure that no one in America would lose their jobs or their health insurance because of a genetic test result.
Granted, this legislation is certainly important, but it sidesteps the central issue: no one should have access to my genetic code without my permission or a warrant. Period. My company can't break into my house and inspect my personal belongings...what makes it OK for them to inspect my genome? Granted, if the above mentioned legislation passes, companies will not be able to overtly discriminate based on these findings...but all this really means is that if they want to get rid of an employee because of genetic considerations, they will just have to dream up some sort of pretense to remove the offending employee.

Yes, I'm sure that if genetic testing of individuals without their consent were to be outlawed, some companies would continue doing it in secret, just as if discrimination was outlawed, some companies would circumvent the law as I outlined above. But the point remains valid: if outlawing discrimination based on genetic tests protects employees to some degree, then it folllows that outlawing the genetic testing of individuals without their consent in the first place would enhance that protection considerably.

More importantly, if this issue isn't nipped in the bud firmly and immediately, we couold find ourselves on a slippery slope of truly brobdingnagian proportions. Imagine a world where you are under constant surveillance by law enforcement...not because you have a history of violent crime, but because you have a genetic predisposition to violence. You find it difficult to get a job because of your genetic predisposition to adult ADD, and you can't get health insurance because you are geneticlly predisposed to heart problems.

A line in the sand must be drawn now, before Gattica [imdb.com] becomes an uncomfortable reality.

Re:Genetic Testing !Consent == Invasion of Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287741)

Shoot, dude, you're losing your edge. Keep waiting three minutes to post into a new article and you'll fade into obscurity.

Congrats on recovering from your extra white space dependence though.

Re:Genetic Testing !Consent == Invasion of Privacy (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287807)

Dammit it's GATTACA, there aren't any I's in the genetic sequence.

Re:Genetic Testing !Consent == Invasion of Privacy (1)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287815)

Things could never get this bad and here's why: everybody is genetically predisposed to something. If we're going to discriminate against everybody, it's the same thing as discriminating against nobody. If a company refuses to sell health insurance to someone with any family history of any condition at all, they won't be selling insurance at all.

Not that I'd ever like to see a Gattica-like situation, but I don't think it's really possible even with genetic testing.

Re:Genetic Testing !Consent == Invasion of Privacy (2, Interesting)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287827)

Thats what happens these days with drug testing. At the behest of insurance companies offering discounts, regardless of effectiveness, more and more companies are instituting compulsory drug testing.

Aside from possible testing for other conditions (diabetics, pregnant women, etc all miraculously testing positive on the drug screen so that the company doesn't have to pay for their problems), you can be declined for a job purely based on what you do on your off hours.

Many people would sneer and say "if you don't like it,find another job", but when a growing number of employers are doing drug screens, genetic tests, or whatever for those precious insurance discounts, you don't have much of a choice if you want to support yourself or your family.

Re:Genetic Testing !Consent == Invasion of Privacy (1, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287892)


You raise an excellent point here...we got started on this slippery slope when we sat back and complacently let urinanalysis in the workplace start chipping away at our civil rights.

But there's one important difference between testing for the presence of illicit chemicals and testing for the presence of genetic predispositions: while I can choose to indulge or not to indulge in illicit drugs, I cannot change my genetic code. This fudamental difference marks the boundary, and this difference is what we must base our stand upon.

The fight to keep our history of illicit drug use private has been lost...the fight to keep our genetic code private has just begun.

Re:Genetic Testing !Consent == Invasion of Privacy (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287863)

More importantly, if this issue isn't nipped in the bud firmly and immediately, we couold find ourselves on a slippery slope of truly brobdingnagian proportions. Imagine a world where you are under constant surveillance by law enforcement...not because you have a history of violent crime, but because you have a genetic predisposition to violence

I seem to recall a court case (that made it onto Law and Order [but I'm pretty sure it was a real court case first]) where someone tried to argue "not guilty by reason of a genetic predisposition towards X". The judge threw out that line of defence.

That said, I personally don't believe that you can have a genetic predisposition towards some things, a chunk of what falls under criminal behavior being some of it. I personally think that anyone that tries to argue "my genes made me do it" should be laughed out of court. But that is me. Anyone else?

Re:Genetic Testing !Consent == Invasion of Privacy (1)

SurryMt (773354) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287870)

Why can't the employer just make genetic testing a standard pre-requisite of employment - just like the mandatory drug tests at Home Depot or the assignment of patents/intellectual property at most programming/engineering jobs. Granted, I'm presuming consent here, but if they tell you up front that you won't work there until the test is taken, they'll either find workers who will sign up for testing or they'll be unable to fill their position.

Cash Cow for Employees! (1)

guaigean (867316) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287697)

Hey, this is an easy money maker. In most nations these days, laws prevent any sort of this discriminatory nature. They have to absolutely prove that a specific trait is part of a job related task, and your aptitude for illness or disease is not a legal denial for employment. This will last about as long as it takes to file a lawsuit.

What do you mean the time it takes?? Already happe (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287823)

This has already happened. The union on the Santa Fe railroad has done this quite a while back. www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,42971,00.html

Re:Cash Cow for Employees! (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287859)

Not so. If there's a choice between using you in a position that would agravate a genetic predisposition to carpal or in one that doesn't, they can simply assign you to something that's less likely to cause carpal. As an example, grocery checkers are far more likely to get carpal than shelf clerks. Moving those most prone to problems off the checkstands is just common sense. Either that, or spend a small amount of money to make the job less damaging for them because it's cheaper than paying the medical expenses. That's not to say I approve of the secret testing; I don't. I just think that if you do have reason to think certain employees are more suseptable to workplace-caused conditions, you not only have every right to make adjustments for it, you have a moral obligation to do so. What you don't have is the right to refuse to employ them unless there's no way to make their job reasonably safe for them.

This could backfire... (4, Insightful)

Kevin Burtch (13372) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287701)


If they find someone has a genetic flaw that means they are likely to develop CTS, wouldn't they be protected by the disabilities act?
If so, the business would really have to accomodate them with an altered, and likely expensive, work environment.

Re:This could backfire... (1)

guaigean (867316) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287718)

Exactly. If anything, it will cost the business more in ergonomically safe work equipment. By not knowing about the disability, they are less liable.

Re:This could backfire... (1)

dgos78 (881140) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287776)

Imagine companies finding out that many people who use computers can get CTS. Now all those people can apply for disability. I don't think the government would be too happy about it. If our government wants to keep from spending more money on individuals with no return, and I'm sure they do, they'll put a foot in someone's ass in a hurry.

Re:This could backfire... (2, Informative)

Peyna (14792) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287810)

What does the ADA consider a disability?" [adata.org]

There is nothing there that says it must be "genetic" to be considered a disability. In fact, some cases of CTS could be considered a disability and others might not.

For instance, if it was so severe that you were not able to use a keyboard for a long period of time, then it could be a disability.

Re:This could backfire... (4, Interesting)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287910)

Depending on what's needed to avoid problems, it might be cheaper to do the testing and provide the safer environment for those who need it. The testing is a one-time expense, and any different equipment is a capital expenditure; medical benefits for carpal can last for months, or even years. I have a friend who's been unable to work for over ten years now because she made the mistake of "working through the pain" of carpal, and will never be able to work for the rest of her life. Her last employer will be paying for that as long as she lives. I'm not faulting them, she could have complained about the pain sooner but chose not to. If she has a genetic predisposition and it were known, this would probably have been avoided because they wouldn't have given her the tasks (copying large numbers of pages of various files in a legal firm) that caused this.

Life imitating art? (2, Interesting)

Jailbrekr (73837) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287707)

Why did select scenes from Gattica suddenly pop into my head?

Re:Life imitating art? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287771)

GATTACA ...young padawan!

Re:Life imitating art? (5, Funny)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287782)

Because you are heavily influenced by Hollywood, science fiction & pop culture and incapable of independent, creative thought?

Re:Life imitating art? (1)

Mortimer82 (746766) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287878)

You got the spelling of Gattaca wrong.

Incidently, when they named it Gattaca, they spelled it using the first letters of the types of Nucleotides that are the building blocks of DNA:
Adenine (A), Cytosine (C), Guanine (G), Thymine (T), and Uracil (U).

This is no coincidence and was purposefully done.

Gattaca, Here We Come (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287708)

First 1984, now this. Anybody else tired of life imitating art?

"Health-Hack.com"? (1)

sczimme (603413) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287712)


I got this far...

Whether it's Carpal Tunnel, Blackberry Thumb or iPod Ear, you can find out all about it here at Health-Hack.com "The Health Portal for Computer Users and Abusers"(TM)

Then I cringed and glanced at the article. It's essentially a two-page intro to a Google-cached Seattle Times article. I'll save you the trouble of going to H-H.com:

Exploring the Frontiers of Life [216.239.63.104]

Re:"Health-Hack.com"? (1)

genkael (102983) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287798)

I always end up with Diablo hand, a condition where all of your fingers are locked into the shape of a mouse after too many hours of killing monsters.

Well duh (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287713)

What good is science if you don't use it for evil? There are too many goody-two-shoes scientists out there. Come on, more evil science please.

Is this really a problem? (4, Insightful)

Blindman (36862) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287717)

People are leaving genetic material all over the place all the time. From a practical standpoint this is like anything else that you discard, it doesn't belong to you any more. That being said, I wouldn't appreciate someone using my blood, sweat and tears (always available at work) for testing purposes, but what can I do?

If I were being cloned that would be different. However, I don't think ethical rules cover any of these situations.

Re:Is this really a problem? (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287787)

I realize this probably doesn't apply to most slashdotters, but some people might be leaving other people's genetic material all over the place too... so I should be fired from my job because my significant other has a predisposition to some disease? If you go around collecting DNA behind people's backs, you don't really know who it actually belongs to, do you? Next thing you know, your employer will require everybody to be screened by one of those dogs trained to sniff out prostate cancer...

Re:Is this really a problem? (3, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287904)

First you say:

People are leaving genetic material all over the place all the time. From a practical standpoint this is like anything else that you discard, it doesn't belong to you any more.

Then you say:

If I were being cloned that would be different.

So, why is it different? You just threw the genetic material away, remember? If someone manages to clone you from it, what can you do?

Re:Is this really a problem? (2, Insightful)

ShaniaTwain (197446) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287913)

I leave my credit card number all over the place when I buy things, does that mean that the number doesn't 'belong' to me anymore?

Unless we live life in a bubble we don't have much choice about leaving genetic material laying around, but that doesn't mean its ethical to test such material without consent.

Re:Is this really a problem? (1)

Seraphim_72 (622457) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287918)


From a practical standpoint this is like anything else that you discard, it doesn't belong to you any more.
Hmmm...let us discuss the difference between "discard" and "lose". If I walk past a trash can pull out my wallet and it's $50 in cash and toss it in I have "discarded" it and I agree, have at, you just made $50. If however it falls from my pocket, I have "lost" it, and you have no right to anything in it. Even if I "discard" my wallet with my cash card on it with the PIN painted on in it with glitter paint, you still have no legal access to my account, the bank would still consider the card "lost". I can think of no cell that I have ever actively discarded, and even if I had in someway (actively got a hair cut) I still would have "lost" the hair follicle that went with that voluntary hair cut. IMHO to "discard" genetic material is actually very hard to do, and would require purposeful action, not passive flaking, drooling, sweating, etc.

Sera

Reminds me of (1)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287719)

This reminds me of the movie Gattica [imdb.com] in a way. How long until companies like this just refuse to hire people who are genetically prone to carple tunnle or anything else that might affect their work performance?

Re:Reminds me of (1)

SysKoll (48967) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287818)

That's Gattaca. A name composed only of the letters ACTG, which represent the amino-acids composing DNA.

Re:Reminds me of (2, Funny)

YankeeInExile (577704) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287876)

Perhaps that day will arrive, shortly after we develop some manner of genetic test to prevent Slashdotters from posting who are incapable of spelling the words carpal or tunnel.

This is wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287722)

If your job physically damages you then you should be fairly compensated for those damages. The problem is that you are marked for life and your chances of being employed in the field you are experienced in (Data entry especially) are greatly reduced. Who wants to hire someone that will be a liability down the road? This is not right.

Re:This is wrong. (1)

InfiniteWisdom (530090) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287900)

Why should they be liable for a risk you knowingly assume? If they fail to provide ergonomic keyboards, suitable working conditions and so on, then sure. But if they follow the best accepted practices of the time, I don't think they should be liable.

Think of the benefits (1)

elvisinmyhead (547182) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287724)

I know a lot about carpool tunnel. You would not believe how much faster I get to work using the carpool lanes. The company should be proud of fostering the development of carpool tunnels for their employees. Just another example of people raising a big stink about nothing.

People cheat at everything. (2, Interesting)

rob_squared (821479) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287727)

Just plant some DNA of someone who you know who's never had Carpel Tunnel.

And this is a surprise...how? (4, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287733)

You all line up to pee in a bottle to prove a negative but are shocked at something like this? It's not really that much different. Proving you don't have some genetic condition isn't that much different than proving you don't do illegal drugs. If you don't have genetic defects there's nothing to hide, right?

Once you open the door to proving negatives as accepted social policy, there's no real end in sight.

Land of the free, home of the piss test.

Re:And this is a surprise...how? (4, Insightful)

mscnln (785138) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287817)

I'm sorry, but there's a big difference between genetics, over which one has no control, and taking drugs, which is (at least certainly in the beginning) a voluntary action.

Re:And this is a surprise...how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287879)

It is that much different. A piss test is to test for something that you either did or didn't do, by choice. Presumably, the outcome of this piss test is going to be directly based on your previous choices, and most people go in to a piss test already knowing what their results will be.

Genetic testing, on the hand, is something that you have absolutely no control over, and something that you cannot predict. What if you went into a genetic test, discovered a heart condition, and were henceforth unhireable by any company. It's a far cry from your generic piss test, where if you turn up positive, all you have to do is get clean for a month and apply somewhere else.

The difference is informed consent (4, Insightful)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287902)

Not all employers require drug screening. My employer right now has never required me to pee in a bottle. Furthermore, if they tell me tomorrow that I had to, I would have the option of walking away.

The case in question had neither information nor consent. The nature of the test isn't in question; the means used to obtain the testing sample is the problem. In that respect, it is very different from typical drug screening.

More information.... (1)

Marnhinn (310256) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287735)

Anyone have any more information on the tests, and the uproar about them? The article isn't to specific.

I'm simply wondering how the samples (of material for the genetic tests where collected). If they were done without employees knowledge - covertly as implied by the few statements in the article, then it poses a real threat, not for discrimination problems, but major privacy issues (like tracking someone by their genes)...

Anyhow - Gattaca anyone?

Gattaca (5, Funny)

mnemonic_ (164550) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287774)

Thanks for mentioning that movie. You are the first to suggest such a connection.

What they need a test for... (1)

csoto (220540) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287758)

is the Geek vs. Nerd gene. I mean, we all know that Nerds are nerds, but Geeks are nerds with skills. As a PHB, I want to know which one I'm hiring :)

I'm not worried (2, Funny)

sysadmn (29788) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287759)

Carpal Tunnel, hell! What happens when they start testing for the genetic markers indicating a predisposition to spending all day browsing Slashdot? Activity on Slashdot, Fark, and other forums will fall initially fall, then skyrocket after the Great Purge!

CTS is easily treated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287766)

People are just too damn lazy to do exercises. Get a hand gripper and squeeze the bastard every 15 minutes for about 10-20 squeezes. At first, it may hurt, but the pain will subside quickly. Once proper circulation to the nerves is restored and muscle tone improves, no more CTS.


CTS is such a crock of shit, it's just an excuse to lead a mega-sedentary life style.


Get off your asses/wrists and EXERCISE, mafuckers.


Oh, and a big FUCK YOU to the company here. What a waste of time and effort.

Sounds ok with permission. (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287769)

I didn't read the article, but it sounds like it would be ok with permission possibly. It's no different then health screenings done by insurance agencies sometimes for health insurance.

Genetic therapies are needed... (1)

sploxx (622853) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287773)

...if humanity does not want to end in a very harsh social darwinistic society.

More and more it is accepted to let the individual suffer for 'the gene pool'.
Alot of this can be attributed to the only crude methods which are available. Either reproduction is prevented (the lesser evil) or even individuals are exterminated (god beware -but the end of the slippery slope).

Although I don't think that a 'better' but more narrow gene pool is good at all, this seems to be what the population in the western world wants.
Instead of cruelty, it would be better to have the methods available to save the individuals from harm.

After all, what is the point of inventing the perfect homo sapiens? Is it good to narrow the gene pool that much with this increased, additional pressure?

Re:Genetic therapies are needed... (1)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287917)

What are you talking about? The opposite is happening. Modern medical care makes it possible to keep people alive who suffer from conditions that would have killed them at a young age just 50 years ago. Also, life is safer now. Cars and other machinery have safeguards that weren't required years ago. People work in safer jobs now and are a lot less likely to get killed at work. Due to all of these things combined, it is now possible for someone who would have previously been a "Darwin award winner" to live a long life. Perhaps this explains why we seem to have more stupid people in society now, since there are fewer ways for them to accidentally kill themselves.

*oww* (-1, Troll)

boomgopher (627124) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287781)

Yes, I'm a young and arrogant bastard - but it seems all the folks I know with 'carpal', low-back problems, stress disorders, etc. complaints are either:

a bunch of whiners who exagerate the smallest of aches and pains for pity/attention/etc.

a bunch of phoneys trying to milk the system

Yes - of course - these are real problems that some folks really suffer with, but I think that the actual occurances are very small. Seeing how rough up life is in say, Vietnam, I don't see how American office workers could make it in the real world outside of their air-conditioned office.

It's sort of like the handicapped parking spots everywhere - I can't remember the last time I saw someone wheelchair-bound park in one, can you?

Re:*oww* (1)

taustin (171655) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287880)

You raise an interesting idea. Perhaps the gene being tested for is actually a predispostition to commit workman's comp fraud.

This is a 5 year old story (2, Insightful)

hoover10001 (550647) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287783)

They were doing the research 5 years ago, and stopped over 4 years ago. It doesn't look like they were taking a really serious look at it anyway. How much data can they really get from 200 tests?

Re:This is a 5 year old story (1)

JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287837)

You're new here, aren't you?

No risk (3, Insightful)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287795)

The problem is no one wants to assume risk. Shouldn't this be an insurance issue instead of a workman's comp issue? You have insurance companies that don't want any risk but yet want premiums. Part of the recipe for insurance is that you are paying them to assume a risk and they are betting on that risk not falling through. Further, they are making profit off your money via investment. In the case of employers, they are making these deposits on the chance that something does happen. I understand that you don't want to lose at poker, but you're playing the game. I realize this analogy breaks down at some point but isn't it equally unethical to collect insurance premiums from people who have predispositions to ANYTHING? Insurance companies are largely evil entities and unfortunately, necessary evils. My opinion, FWIW.

Employers should provide jobs (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287800)

And I should be buying everything I need with my paycheck. My employer doesn't buy me car insurance or homeowners/renters insurance. The state has decided to shift the burden for health insurance to employers and that is what has created most of the nonsence that changed the employee-employer relationship to a slave-master relationship. Most of the drive to have employers involved in non-work areas is because of this.

Re:Employers should provide jobs (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287851)

The state has decided to shift the burden for health insurance to employers and that is what has created most of the nonsence that changed the employee-employer relationship to a slave-master relationship. Most of the drive to have employers involved in non-work areas is because of this.

Interesting ... so you're saying that because we don't have nationalized health plans like all the other industrialized countries, this is what creates this desire to look inside our genes?

Companies liable to screw this up. (0)

RichMan (8097) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287806)

Lets take this as an example. Assume it is possible to test for a predisposition for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).

It is therefore possible to prescreen employees for susceptability for CTS. Such employees should therefore be provided with additional testing and support to reduce their chance of actually getting CTS. The company would be falling down in its duty to employees.

Or are we looking at Gattica were only perfect people can be employed. I doubt any sort of genetic screening for anything but "specific at risk liability" jobs (such as narcolepsy for bus drivers) will be allowed.

It is spelt Gattaca! (2, Funny)

Rectal Prolapse (32159) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287893)

Woohoo, my first spelling Nazi post!

Anyways, I can see the above scenarios happening quite easily.

I, for one... (1)

Vorondil28 (864578) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287813)

...welcome our new finger-nail-clipping,-shed-skin,-eye-lash-collecti ng overlords.

Carpal Tunnel questions (1)

adamplas (808919) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287819)

Maybe someone could enlighten me, but I seem to recall that you get carpal tunnel syndrome via repetive motion (eg, typing, playing the cello, etc) Aren't there keyboards and other ergo devices that could be used with the people identified by this study? Not suggesting we all beg our employers to study our genes, but the American's with Disibilities Act requires that an employer makes reasonable accomadations for an employee with a disability. Since it's a genetic predisposition that the worker has absolutely no control over, if the company tried to oust them, or not hire them at all based on this pre-existing, genetic condition wouldn't this be considered discrimination?

Re:Carpal Tunnel questions (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287905)

I think the elephant in the living room might turn out to be that CTS comes from *driving.*

Nature v. Nurture (1)

ndansmith (582590) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287828)

This could be big fuel for a nature v. nurture. Are there actually measurable, verifiable genetic characteristics which predispose someone to getting carpal tunnel? Or is the onset of this ailment purely a function of the victims' behavior or their environment?

Personally, I am quite skeptical of the genetic side of the argument. Given our still pedantic understanding of DNA and genetics, I am suspicious of claims that genetic factors could contribute to the problem of carpal tunnel more than behavioral and environmental factors.

Bright Side (1)

Lord_Dweomer (648696) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287848)

Well, on the bright side, nobody will be able to patent this process since Gattacca CLEARLY provides prior art. *sigh*

trend? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287862)

Since when is one incidence considered a trend?

morality vs. science: equality vs. inequality (1)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287873)

On the one hand we espouse the notion that "all people are created equal." It's an excellent core belief for the basis for civilization, government, law, etc. Yet science makes a mockery of this belief because we are not geneticaly equal and those differences impact outcomes that have legal, governmental, and social implications.

For example, the U.S. EPA generally uses a 1-in-a-million threshold for carcinogens. A sufficiently low chance of cancer defines the threshold for safety. Yet this guideline assumes that we all share an chance or equal burden. What happens when genetic testing proves that 999,999 of every million of us have no chance of getting cancer from the substance, but that 1 identifiable person in million has a 100% chance of cancer at the "safe" threshold level of exposure. Lowering exposure to make it safe for the most sensitive individual may not be feasible.

I suspect that this will become one of the thornier issues facing future decision makers.

with systemic racism we already have enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287874)

canadaimmigrants.com

I'm not too worried about this in the long run... (2, Insightful)

Captain Sarcastic (109765) | more than 9 years ago | (#13287889)

The particulars of this case, though, I do find troublesome, with the fact that Burlington Northern Santa Fe are using an unproven method and are preparing to take action on it. However, a good lawyer will probably be able to stop them from (a) firing someone who shows the genetic markers for "carpal tunnel susceptibility," and (b) suggesting that people who do put in claims for carpal tunnel were "going to get it anyway," and disallowing the claims (unless they can show that they did take some action).

There will always be employers who are willing to jump to the conclusion that a predisposition towards something is a guarantee that it will happen. These people will use genetic tests for the latest-found markers, and will wind up not being able to hire anybody.

TFA wasn't very helpful (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287899)

It didn't have a whole lot to do with the railroad case...

So I found this one:

http://www.law.duke.edu/journals/dltr/articles/200 2dltr0015.html [duke.edu]

the real question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13287915)

for slashdot is...

did they use windows or linux for the test? and were any results effected by that choice?
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