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Employee rights violated by "genetic discrimination"

Discrimination in the workplace can take on many forms: an employee can be unfairly treated due to race, gender, sexuality and a host of other potential traits. However, Ontario residents might not take into consideration that Canada is the only G7 country not to provide protections against genetic discrimination, the practice of discriminating against an individual due to a pre-existing genetic condition such as an illness. If considered in the same light as the other discriminatory practices described above, genetic discrimination constitutes a violation of employee rights, and of human rights in general. 

Genetic testing is doubtless a powerful, useful tool that can help many Canadians better manage their health and prepare for potential problems later in life. However, as of today, no law exists to protect that information from prying eyes. This can lead citizens to be turned down for health insurance and even be terminated from jobs if employers become aware of their genetic testing results. 

Currently, a law is being reviewed by the Senate that would counter this issue. Bill S-201 is meant to protect the result of any genetic testing and maintain it as a private document. While it is certainly facing opposition, most notably from the insurance industry, it was voted unanimously upon by the Senate last year and is currently undergoing its third reading. This could be a vital new law for Canadians suffering from genetic disorders. 

No Ontario resident should be denied opportunities due to a condition beyond one's control, particularly if such a condition does not in any way influence the ability to do a job. Employee rights are very important in Canada, and protecting employees from this kind of discrimination must be taken very seriously. For those facing this type of discrimination, or any other in the workplace, seeking the support of an employment law attorney is a good first step toward righting these sorts of wrongs in workplaces across the country. 

Source: The Sudbury Star, "Laws needed to prevent genetic discrimination", Robin Baranyai, Jan. 13, 2017

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