Professor Mark Matthews, Ph.D.
April 6, 2004
Ethical Considerations of Genetic Testing in the Workplace
The use of genetic testing is on the rise in the American workplace. According to a 1998 survey by the American Management Association, 10% of American employers now routinely test employees for predispositions to disease.1 While employers attempt to justify it, workers and their agents try to abolish it and the government half- heartedly controls it, my essay concentrates on the moral and ethical implications that surround it.
Are there circumstances that exist in the work environment that would make genetic screening necessary or even mandatory? Who should and will have access to the test results? What will the knowledge gleaned from the test results be applied to? In this essay I will summarize two slightly opposing views regarding genetic testing in the workplace and identify the variances. I will conclude with my own position and defend it.
First I will summarize the position Joseph Kupfer takes, that of reluctant opposition to across the board genetic testing. He bases his arguments on privacy rights and justice theories. The second position I will summarize is that of a group of authors: Andrew C. Wicks; Lowell E. Sever; Rebekah Harty; Steven W. Gajewski and Miriam Marcus-Smith. I will from here forth refer to these authors as the "Wicks Group." These authors stand in defense of genetic screening in the workplace, only if limited by their suggested broad constraints.
Kupfer believes that there persists an imbalance of power in the employer-employee relationship. This imbalance allows the employer greater power and control over his employees. Kupfer believes genetic testing further tips the power scales in the favor of the employer in the workplace. If employees refuse to comply with an employer's request...