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Genetic Discrimination in the IT Workplace 556

Posted by timothy
from the hide-your-nail-clippings dept.
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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Genetic Discrimination in the IT Workplace

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  • And what if... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:01PM (#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... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Peyna (14792) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:07PM (#13287729) Homepage
      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.
    • 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 anyon
      • 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.
        • The risks of a for-profit enterprise are accepted by the investors, not the employees. The investors get the profit, so it's appropriate that they also get the risk.

          That's the theory, anyway.
          • for-profit enterprise

            Isn't being employed a "for-profit enterprise"? Unless we are talking about volunteer positions...

            Is trading your time for money less of an enterprise than when an entire corporation trades it's time for someone elses money?
    • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:17PM (#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.
      • 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.
      • Bingo! Unless these genetic tests become unbelievably cheap then they'll never catch on in the insurance industry, and maybe not even then
        • by crovira (10242) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:45PM (#13288037) Homepage
          As an older worker, I have a pre-existing condition, multiple sclerosis.

          My mobility is affected and I certainly can't dance anymore. (The cane was getting to be a hazard to the others on the dance floor. I know because I danced at a XMas party a couple or jobs ago. :-)

          Trouble is that I am probably working on the last job I will ever be able to get. I'm not that old, 50, so what am I supposed to do what that job 'goes away' as all consulting tech jobs that I ever worked on over the past 25 years have done.

          I'm too handicapped and I may be too old for retraining, despite the Associate's in Business that I am currently getting (at week's end thank you.)

          I am just getting tossed out. Its nothing personal but that's just the way it goes. The software I was working on (a CRM system written in Smalltalk,) has been end-of-lifed.

          What am I supposed to do for money? I don't want a free ride but odds are that, if I wouldn't hire someone disabled like me, nobody else will either.

          I'm not dead yet, but some days, I sort of get the feeling that everybody else wishes that I was. so they wouldn't have to be bothered.
          • What am I supposed to do for money? I don't want a free ride but odds are that, if I wouldn't hire someone disabled like me, nobody else will either.

            My dad always told me to get a profession (lawyer, doctor, etc.), not a job. With a job, say as a manager, you're always dependent on a company being willing to employ you for your income. With a profession, you can work for a company or a firm, or hang out your own shingle and work for yourself. One of the best things about being a skilled developer is t
    • Re:And what if... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spun (1352) *
      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
      • Hi spun,

        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.

        Ok, thanks for an honest answer. :-)

        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 happe
        • Re:And what if... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by spun (1352) *
          Okay, point taken, but it still smacks of trying to draw a pet issue into an unrelated discussion. Personally, I have no ethical issues with stem cell research or genetic testing, along the same lines as I have no ethical issues with guns. Nothing wrong with them, it's what people do with them. And to be frank, in regards to stem cell research, I don't have an issue with any supposed ending of human life. I don't see it that way. A fetus before a certain stage is no more "strictly and technically human lif
      • I forgot to mention one critical thing, here:

        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.

        You imply embryonic stem cell research is only "research into a life saving technology", and that this genetic testing is only "invasion of privacy".

        But therein lies the problem: your positioning of the two somewhat reveals your stance.

        But embryonic stem cell research is not only about "research into a life
    • Re:And what if... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:26PM (#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?

      • Re:And what if... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bluprint (557000)
        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.

        Wow. It's amazing people think this way, not surprising, but amazing. "Power corrupts, corporations have power over employees, therefore they are evil". However, government, with even more "power" than any corporation could hope for, is good. They protect us. And in cases where
    • First of all, I think Burlington Northern proabably selected Carpal Tunnel as the "guinea pig" to genetically test against because it's one of the injuries taken less seriously by the general public.

      It may cost them a lot in workers' comp. claims, but except for those already suffering from it, most people remain pretty unconcerned about getting it.

      If you want to picture why genetic testing without permnission by an employer might be viewed as "troubling" or having a "profound" impact - all you need to do i
    • ...testing someone who has already been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, in an effort to determine what caused it and to what degree; and testing someone before offering them the job, or insurance coverage, etc. Many people would find the former to be a reasonable means of investigating a medical malady; many more may find the latter an unreasonable invasion of privacy without cause.

      Many employers require employees to submit to drug tests after an accident in the workplace; not too many people have a
    • But is the employer always, then, responsible? Under what conditions are they not responsible?)

      All conditions. Because of the failings of the government and demands in society in this country, social welfare has been forced onto the private sector, employers specifically. If the government can't afford something, it'll just pass on the cost to employers.

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

      by GlassHeart (579618) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:41PM (#13288010) Journal
      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?

      You mean like black people, who are statistically more likely to get pulled over when driving? Or perhaps like women, who are statistically more likely to become pregnant and cause downtime at work?

      The first observation might concern a trucking or taxi business more, while the second one concerns nearly every industry, but society forbids this sort of discrimination. Generally, we allow an employer to make decisions based on what the employee or applicant has done (prior arrests, bad credit, etc.), not what they are statistically likely to do in the future.

      Not all laws should be written for the maximum convenience of corporations. We require them to do all sorts of things, from cleaning up their toxic waste to giving a mother some time with her newborn baby without losing her job. As long as a significant portion of people with such genetic dispositions do not actually develop the illness or can be effectively treated, I expect discrimination to remain illegal.

      • Re:And what if... (Score:3, Informative)

        by aaza (635147)
        Has no one here watched Gattaca [imdb.com]? The completely illegal genetic test can be obtained legally via a drug test, saliva sample on the envelope/stamp, etc.

        Just a thought...

    • Every last person has different genes and is below average in some category or other. Allowing employers to screen for these conditions is akin to making every action you take illegal. It would simply be a handy dandy basket of excuses ready to to get a company off the hook for the slightest deviation from safe working conditions.

      Slipped on loose carpeting and hurt your ankle and out for a couple of days? Ha! Your genes show you only have 99% of the average person's balance control due to a genetic defe
  • Life Imitates Art (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:01PM (#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!
  • ... its a brave new world??
  • dangerous (Score:5, Funny)

    by chez69 (135760) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:02PM (#13287681) Homepage Journal
    when they find the slashdot reading gene, we are all screwed
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:04PM (#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.
    • 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.
      • 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.

        I disagree. You ignore that some genetic flaws are far more costly than the usual genetic flaws. Eg, a predisposition to diabetes, mental illness, Alzheimer's di

    • 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 do

      • 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
      • The company I work for (Kindred Healthcare, they run a bunch of nursing homes) has a random drug test policy. The Administrator of the building I work in has said many times that she doesn't do the drug tests because if they enforced that policy, half of the building would be fired.

        There's a difference between having a policy and enforcing policy.
    • 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 r
    • 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.

      What are you going to do if a sibling gets arrested? Although there is enough difference between you and your siblings to avoid the claim that because your brother has a disorder that you should have it too, it may be provide the basis for a legal challenge should i
  • by Kevin Burtch (13372) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:04PM (#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.
    • by Peyna (14792)
      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.

    • by techno-vampire (666512) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:28PM (#13287910) Homepage
      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.
    • by SamShazaam (713403)
      Hypothetically two similar candidates compete for the same position, one with CTS and one without. Insurance costs for the one with CTS will likely be higher. The candidate without CTS gets the job. The candidate with CTS is later laid off. Can you prove in court that CTS had anything to do with this? You don't seriously think the company will tell the truth about the reasons, do you?
  • Life imitating art? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Jailbrekr (73837)
    Why did select scenes from Gattica suddenly pop into my head?

  • 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]
  • Well duh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:05PM (#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.
  • by Blindman (36862) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:05PM (#13287717) Journal
    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.
    • 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...
    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:27PM (#13287904) Homepage
      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?
      • Just by way of analogy. If I find a book in a trash can, you are free to read it, but you are not free to duplicate it. Admittedly, people aren't copyrighted, but we do have a right to our own image and likeness which would be infringed by a clone. Presumably identical twins fall under some sort of inadvertant exception or an evidentiary problem [Who is the original? Who is the clone?]
    • 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.
      • Technically, your credit card number is associated with you and not really owned. Furthermore, it would be legal for someone to know it, it wouldn't be legal for someone to use it without your authorization.

        Your genetic material contains information that isn't encrypted or otherwise access restricted. It is one thing to use the information, but it is another to just look at the information that it contains.
    • 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 glitte

      • 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.
        I'd like to refer to the case of Finders vs. Keepers
  • 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?
  • Just plant some DNA of someone who you know who's never had Carpel Tunnel.
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:08PM (#13287733) Homepage
    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.

  • 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 :)
  • by sysadmn (29788) <sysadmn@noSpam.gmail.com> on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:10PM (#13287759) Homepage
    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!
  • ...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 w
    • 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
  • 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?
  • No risk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jav1231 (539129) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:14PM (#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.
    • No, insurance companies are there for the unknown, not against risk per say.
      Smoking is a risk but it's very known that it causes problems, therefore you pay a higher premium.
      Walking on the sidewalk is also a risk, but it's not known if your going to get hit by a car or not. And until someone does studies to know the risk of sidewalk walking in different areas everyone will pay the same.
      The only reason this seems different is because it's something that the person can't control. So they're basically being
      • My problem is that they don't "drive up the rates" insurance companies do. Just because they are predisposed to these issues doesn't mean they will succomb to them. So there is still an unknown. Insurance companies could always raise his rates and leave yours alone, they choose not too. So they get higher premiums from you both and profit on interest from investments. Therein lies my issue with them. I have no problem with profit, don't get me wrong. My problem is that they are largely unfettered. Why shoul
  • 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

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

  • 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
    • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:33PM (#13287935)

      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.

      It does not take science and genetics to show that all men are not created equal in the sense that you are using the term. Even back in the 1700 some people were born bigger, stronger, smarter, prettier, etc. than others. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and inherent advantages and disadvantages due to circumstance.

      The phrase, "all men are created equal" is followed by the phrase, "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." It then goes on to enumerate some of those rights. Men are created equal in that they are all deserving of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not in that they are all equally strong, smart, or resistant to cancer.

    • "created equal" doesn't speak of ability or potential or defects or intelligence, but of rights.
  • by Captain Sarcastic (109765) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:25PM (#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.

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:35PM (#13287951)
    While we're at it, I hear that strip clubs discriminate against disabled dancers when hiring, and supermodels discriminate against geeks when selecting sex partners! This blantant discrimination must end! I say we demand legislation now to mandate quotas for supermodels dating slashdot readers!
  • As I expected, there are, again, some anglo-saxon neo-liberal capitalists busy trying to talk this kind of behaviour 'right'.

    I'm a libertarian myself, and all for (moderate) capitalism, but all this rampant justifying god damn everything to what the economical benefit of it is, makes me puke. The inherent greed, amount of self-centrism and self-serving egotism, the twisted ethics of such grabbing corporations and 'businessmen' who have a severe lack of empathy always gives me the shivers. Let the world be r
  • by jevvim (826181) on Wednesday August 10, 2005 @02:36PM (#13287963) Journal
    How much have you given up to work at your present employer?

    Did you agree to random drug tests, at their whim? Perhaps they wanted to see your credit report?

    In my experience, companies are constantly trying to gain more concessions from their employees, often without granting anything to the employee in exchange.

    It's natural, then, that they're moving on to these genetic test - at least from the company's perspective. Employees, however, are balking at this brand new intrusion for now. But how long until it's just like that drug test that everyone else seems to be OK with, simply because they aren't looking for you?

    If you don't speak out for others, no one will be left to speak out for you. This is why Unions are still a good thing - it allows workers to speak up against policies such as this while protecting themselves from direct retribution at work, since the company doesn't know who, exactly, started the complaint.

  • My mom worked at a smaller railroad that got swallowed up by BN. She rose through the ranks to become Wire Chief (think electrical engineering supervisor), the first and probably only female in that job at that railroad. As she grew closer to retirement, though, her new job assignments become increasingly horrific. For example, her last job included cleaning toilets in the crew shanties in the railyard.

    Was it because she was a bad employee? Nope - her work record was spotless and her evaluations were impeccable. No, it was because BN-SF went out of their way to try to make people quit before they reached retirement. They did this to everyone in hopes of avoiding paying those hard-earned pensions.

    Therefore, it doesn't surprise me at all to hear that they're trying to screw over yet another set of employees. That's been their SOP for years, so I can't imagine they'd turn tail now.

    By the way, if you want an example of a completely incompetent union, there you have it. I'm not pro-union to begin with, but I'd expect one to at least try to help its members.

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