U. of Akron Wants DNA for Background Checks
October 29, 2009
In a move sure to be debated throughout the country, the University of Akron is stipulating that all new employees submit a DNA sample for background screening purposes as a condition of employment. While I’m intrigued by the inclusion of this as part of a thorough employment screening program, I’m not sure that there is any practical use for it now, or in the near future.
University spokesperson Laura Massie said that they have not collected any samples as of yet. They are just reserving the right to do so in the future. The reason for the policy is that the university believes that eventually, DNA samples will be used to conduct background checks. My response: don’t hold your breath. Someday, people will also vacation on the moon, but it’s not happening anytime in the near future.
Critics say that this policy violates the soon to be enforced Genetic Information Non Discrimination Act (GINA). This criticism makes sense. What’s to stop the school from analyzing DNA of job applicants to see if they are predisposed to cancer or alcoholism or to growing a third eye?
I love the fact that the school is serious about demonstrating the importance of employment background checks, but suggest that they cross this bridge when they come to it (if it ever comes).
Massie responded to CBS after the article had been written. In her email she states, “the three most important points are these: First, General Counsel Ted Mallo believes that “GINA deals with gathering DNA for health insurance purposes” so genetic testing for background checks is permissible. Second, the school has not yet figured out how it will actually do DNA background tests. Third, the reason for the policy is: “DNA testing was included in the policy because there have been national discussions that indicate that in the future, reliance on fingerprinting will diminish and DNA for criminal identification will be the more prominent technology. By including it in the policy we have the flexibility to match the technology if the Ohio State Highway Patrol makes changes to its system.”
University of Akron law professor William Rich told CBS, “The Faculty Senate was not consulted about this policy. It wasn’t until just now that I became aware of it. Having now read the policy, I think it goes far beyond any imaginable justification for requiring DNA samples from job applicants, and I wonder just what the rationale for it was. The university does employ police officers who have law-enforcement authority under Ohio law and agreements with local police departments. I can imagine that there might be a justification for requiring prospective UA police officers to submit DNA samples (although I’d still like to know more about the rationale for that), but a university regulation that allows the University administration complete discretion to require DNA samples from any job applicant strikes me as way too broad.”
If nothing else, this will create more buzz for the University of Akron than if the Zips won the NCAA Football National Championship (well, maybe not that). Maybe that was the point in the first place.