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The DNA Dilemma

Should genetic discrimination be part of your EPL coverage?

Using pre-employment genetic testing to make hiring decisions could lead to litigation your employment practices liability--or EPL--insurance might not cover.

Though genetic testing in the workplace is still rare, the issue has prompted proposed federal legislation to add genetics to the list of protected characteristics such as age, race and gender. While the legislation is pending, business owners should pay attention, says Paul Sullivan, vice president of The Hartford's Financial Products organization in Hartford, Connecticut. "I think you may see [the potential for genetic testing and discrimination] in a profession or industry that relies heavily on physical capabilities," Sullivan says.

Some EPL policies list specific discriminatory actions that are covered; others add a catchall phrase. But you could be sued whether you actually discriminated or not, and it's likely that your current policy wouldn't defend you unless it specifically covers genetic discrimination. That's why, Sullivan says, The Hartford has created an endorsement to its EPL policies that protects employers from allegations of this type of discrimination.

Sullivan advises speaking with your agent to clarify exactly what your EPL policy covers. Doing so will help you decide the best way to include genetic discrimination in your policy so you're protected now and after legislation is passed.

Jacquelyn Lynn is a freelance business writer in Orlando, Florida.

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This article was originally published in the January 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The DNA Dilemma.

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