The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which took effect Nov. 21, 2009, not only forbids employers and health insurers from collecting individuals’ genetic information and using that in their decision-making; it also prohibits the solicitation of family medical histories, again to prevent discrimination in decision-making.

As the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, however, GINA could put a serious dent in workplace wellness programs, which have often relied on family health histories to help employees make informed life-style decisions to improve their physical well-being and ward off disease and disability.

And wellness programs are hugely popular too, with some 70 percent of the nation’s employers subsidizing them, often with financial rewards for the participants in terms of health premium discounts and other incentives.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which oversees enforcement of GINA, is still finalizing implementing regulations, which may or may not include a dramatic ban on employers’ use of social media sites to screen employees and job applicants (since people frequently post family and medical information on their personal pages).

Meanwhile, employers running wellness programs are trying to figure out how best to proceed, given the new restrictions on information they may obtain from their employees.

Also, when GINA took effect in November, the EEOC updated its notification poster to include language on GINA and on the Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act (ADAAA). The best way to stay current with the new posting requirement is to obtain the latest version for your state of Personnel Concepts Space Saver-1 Labor Law Poster, which aggregates all your mandated state and federal postings into one conveniently sized poster.