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Genetic information use in hiring decisions: Psycho -legal possibilities arising from the Human Genome Project

Meera Adya, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The wealth of general knowledge resulting from the Human Genome Project will provide the opportunity for individualized health information to be obtained through simple medical tests. The conclusiveness that might be associated with this new type of health information could have serious deleterious consequences if misused. Employers have used a range of techniques varying in intrusiveness to evaluate potential employees (e.g., personality tests, drug tests). Survey data, anecdotal evidence, and case law (e.g., Norman-Bloodsaw v. Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, 1998) suggest that genetic discrimination has occurred under some circumstances. The legal debate over whether genetic discrimination is adequately remedied by existing legislation (Nance, Miller, & Rothstein, 2002) raises a fundamental question that is being examined for the first time by this dissertation: would employers use genetic test information to make differential hiring recommendations? ^ Three studies examined whether health information affects hiring recommendations by manipulating genetic test and family history information for a mental and physical disorder. Generalizability of the findings was tested by using different samples (students v. community) and by adding variables (job-relatedness of disorder, work experience, severity of diagnosis). ^ Findings consistently demonstrated that health information does affect hiring recommendations, as well as other employment-related decisions. A positive test or family history of a disorder (and a more severe diagnosis) predicted more negative decisions. Mental disorder presence consistently predicted more negative decisions. While effect sizes suggest that family history and genetic test information have equal impact, the effects for family history varied more. Students and community members made similar patterns of decisions; the only difference between them was the community sample's tendency to give higher negative ratings to candidates with a positive test or family history for a disorder. The additionally manipulated variables of work experience or job relatedness of disorder had no significant effects. Future research should examine whether these findings generalize to disorders other than those used here. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that health-based information may be used when employment-related decisions are made. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Social|Psychology, Industrial|Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations

Recommended Citation

Adya, Meera, "Genetic information use in hiring decisions: Psycho -legal possibilities arising from the Human Genome Project" (2004). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3142070.