It’s not unusual for employers to conduct criminal background checks during the hiring process. But the University of Akron has taken this to a surprising new level. The Ohio school now reserves the right to require any prospective faculty, staff, or contractor to submit a DNA sample, which genetic-testing experts say makes it the first employer in the nation to take such an extreme and potentially intrusive step.
The new policy, which says a “DNA sample for purpose of a federal criminal background check” may be collected, took the campus by surprise after it was announced last week. An adjunct faculty member has resigned in protest and is contemplating a lawsuit, and the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors says that genetic testing violates a collective bargaining agreement.
“At any number of levels, it’s alarming,” says Stephen Aby, a professor of bibliography who is the past president of Akron’s AAUP chapter. “It’s awfully broad. It gives them the discretion to do fingerprinting or DNA testing as they see fit.”
Adopting the policy, which the university’s board of trustees did in time for the fall semester, appears to violate a federal law that takes effect on November 21 called the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, better known as GINA. It also could conflict with the Americans with Disabilities Act.