Physical Privacy In The Workplace

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Physical Privacy in the Workplace

Physical Privacy in the Workplace


In the former federal case of its kind, the U.S. government litigated Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. (BNSF) for inquiring genetic screening of employees who file claims for certain work-related injuries. According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Sioux City, Iowa, on Feb. 9, the procedure violates the workers' civil rights. In this report we will analyze this case in view and utilitarian and deontological considerations. And evaluate the settlement.


Genetic screening is a relatively new and rapidly emerging field; yet, employee health has been involved in public policies and practices involving genetic screening for conditions such as phenyl ketonuria and sickle cell disease for some time. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) asked the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. (BNSF) to immediately end the screening of workers who make claims against the company for carpal tunnel syndrome and related injuries (Brannigan, 2001). The case states that the employees were not asked to consent to the screening and at least one worker who refused to provide a blood sample was threatened with the loss of his job.

Utilitarian Perspective About Employee Genetic Screening

Utilitarians believe moral decisions should be decided by calculating a burden/benefit ratio from a societal viewpoint. This viewpoint promotes the good of society over that of the individual. Factors taken into deliberation when calculating total happiness include intensity, duration, certainty, propinquity, fecundity, purity, and extent. If there are several people at risk, they should be informed. Informing at risk family members may reduce the intensity of pain for them through medical intervention; decrease the duration of symptoms through medical intervention; decrease the likelihood pain will occur (certainty); delay the onset of the symptoms (propinquity); increase the quality of life (purity) through adequate planning and lifestyle changes, and prevent the passing on of the disorder (extent) (Lewin 2002).

This allows other members of civilization to be screened and make decisions that affect their families. The information could deter individuals from having children and passing on the genetic defect. Knowing of a disorder or preventing the passing of a genetic chaos by a couple deciding not to have children could save large amounts of money for treatments often paid for by society. The orientation of employee health professionals toward population health has led to the application of the utilitarian perspective in the case of cystic fibrosis screening in the United States and thalassaemia screening in other countries, but as the NTD example illustrates, such screening can also involve decisions about resource sharing. A communitarian standpoint would place emphasis on the moral values of a defined community (Lewin 2002).

Instead of resting exclusively on a calculus of burden/benefit for society, decisions are additionally founded on community norms, which can involve solidaristic principles. Predictive screening of highly penetrate conditions is often a decision for the individual or family to make. As employee healt hundertakes screening for more ubiquitous, less penetrant conditions, including chronic disease, decisions regarding ...
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