Physical Privacy Burlington Northern Railway Term Paper

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Physical Privacy

On February 9th, 2001 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company stating the company had conducted genetic testing on it's employees without consent, one employee was threatened by termination for failing to submit a sample blood test. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states these tests were not job related therefore they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Newsletter)

The case began when a 45-year-old track-maintenance worker from Nebraska, Gary Avary, applied for compensation after developing what he said was carpal tunnel syndrome. The company threatened to fire him when he refused to allow a physician to do a blood test, according to the EEOC lawsuit. The worker's wife, a nurse, found out about the tests after asking the doctor why he would need to take so much blood for the sample. Until then, the company had been conducting the genetic tests without employees' knowledge. (Sarah Schafer, Washington Post)Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Term Paper on Physical Privacy Burlington Northern Railway Assignment

The tests had started the year prior when employees were filing claims against the company stating they had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a wrist condition caused by repetitive hand movements that causes pain and numbness in the hand or wrist.. According to Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company the genetic tests were intended to predict a pre-disposition to carpal-tunnel syndrome. The test however, was not a test for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome but for a disorder called Hereditary Neuropathy with liability to Pressure Palsy (HNPP). (Kristen Philipkoski, Wired News) This disorder has Carpal Tunnel like symptoms but the gene does not predict Carpal Tunnel. "The preponderance of carpal-tunnel symptoms actually does not have a genetic basis," said Phillip Chance, chief of genetics and development. (University of Washington) Chance discovered the gene that causes HNPP while working at the University of Utah. The university later licensed the discovery to Athena Diagnostics which was the company that conducted the testing for Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company. A spokesman for the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company, Richard Russack, stated "The motivation was to determine whether some people had a predisposition to carpal-tunnel or whether something was happening on their job that perhaps we hadn't taken into account, that we could fix so they wouldn't be susceptible." (Kristen Philipkoski, Wired News)

However the lead counsel for the employees union, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way, Harry Zanville states "This was about power and drawing lines in the sand, and whether employers secretly, or by coercion, can force employees to divulge their genetic secrets," "The railroad was trying to avoid paying compensatory damages to people injured with carpal-tunnel," (Kristen Philipkoski, Wired News)

The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company agreed to settle with the Employment Opportunity Commission. In the agreement Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company will: 1. not directly or indirectly require its employees to submit blood for genetic tests 2. not analyze any blood previously obtained 3. not evaluate, analyze or consider any gene test analysis previously performed on any of its employees 4. shall not retaliate or threaten to take any adverse action against any person who opposed the genetic testing or who participated in EEOC's proceedings.. (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Newsletter) In addtion,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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