Friday, October 30, 2009 at 5:04 PM
In what's thought to be a first, the University of Akron has implemented a new new policy requiring new job applicants to be willing to submit a DNA sample for background checks. One adjunct faculty member has resigned mid-semester in protest. Ideastream's Bill Rice reports.
The University of Akron implemented the DNA policy in August, and it went largely unnoticed until Matt Williams, an adjunct professor of Communications at the school, resigned this week over the new rule, which is . While it applies to all prospective new employees, it makes no provision for those employed prior to its adoption, and Williams says that’s unfair to adjunct professors, who must essentially re-apply for their jobs every term as their contracts come up for renewal.
Williams: “If the University at sometime in the future decided that it then wanted to take a DNA sample from a part-time faculty member, it would have another opportunity to do so each time that person is rehired.”
But Williams objects to the policy regardless of employment status. Unlike fingerprinting for purposes of a background check, he says, DNA sampling presents a whole host of privacy and discrimination possibilities.
Williams: “DNA provides a window into somebody’s medical history and their medical future. It could provide clues into temperament and various mental illnesses, and those could be used on a discriminatory basis.”
The University of Akron declined an interview for this story, but in prepared statement it cites national discussions that indicate future reliance on DNA for criminal identification over fingerprinting, and says the policy would position the school to be on the leading edge of the change. Meanwhile, it say, the school has not yet, nor has it any immediate plans to ask for DNA from applicants.
The policy has caught the attention of the American Civil liberties of Ohio. Spokesman Michael Brickner says the ACLU doesn’t know of ANY employers that ask for DNA submissions for background checks.
Brickner: “It’s absolutely unprecedented for any employer to have any kind of policy requiring employees to hand over DNA information for purposes of a background check. This is a total aberration.”
What’s more, Brickner says, ACLU attornies believe the policy would be deemed illegal under several federal statutes, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
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