Privacy Press Release

10.28.09

ACLU Blasts University for Policy Requiring Job Applicants to Submit DNA

New University of Akron Policy Violates Privacy and Wastes Resources

AKRON- Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio criticized a new University of Akron policy that requires job applicants to submit to a DNA test at the discretion of the school. The policy states the DNA will be used for criminal background checks. However, the requirement directly contradicts federal law that goes into effect November 21, 2009, which prohibits employers from requiring employees to submit to a DNA test.

ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link said, “It is outrageous to force people to turn over their DNA. Employers certainly have a right to conduct a background check to ensure employees are qualified, but they are not entitled to our most private, personal genetic information.”

The policy allows the University to pick and choose which employees to screen, which could open the door to unfair profiling. According to the policy, the University will absorb all costs of the test.

“Given the large number of student employees, faculty and staff, thousands of people could have their DNA seized every year. These samples will be processed by already backlogged testing units, costing taxpayers even more and wasting resources by diverting time from criminal investigations,” added Link.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 is a federal law that directly prohibits employers from forcing employees to turn over DNA samples. Section 202(b) of the law provides very few exceptions to this, mostly for companies that conduct DNA testing as part of their job.

On October 26, 2009, reports surfaced that one adjunct professor resigned his position in protest of the new policy. It is still unclear whether the University has begun to enforce the policy, how many job applicants have had their DNA taken, and if there are any procedures in place to safeguard the privacy of these job applicants.

“This policy is an unacceptable intrusion into Ohioans’ privacy and criminalizes innocent people. Not only does it violate federal law, but it wastes resources of our over-burdened testing facilities. The University must not force any job applicants to turn over their DNA and should immediately repeal this policy,” Link concluded.

Update 11.16.09 Following a resolution from the University of Akron’s Faculty Senate denouncing the policy requiring job applicants to turn over a DNA sample, the general counsel recommended that the University repeal the provision. The policy will reportedly be discussed and possibly retracted at the next Board of Trustees meeting on December 16, 2009. University officials have stated that they have not taken any DNA samples from applicants and have no plans to do so in the immediate future.