Reiger's case may have brought to light the issue of policy formulation and implementation especially on employee health and welfare in organizations. Reiger was an airline pilot with Danville airline and the company went ahead to carry out some medical tests behind his back which led to the discovery of the existence of the Huntington's disease causing gene. This was after his father succumbed to the same illness (Darden Business Publishing, 2004). The actions of the airline and the discovery may have been indicators of the importance and significance of carrying out genetic testing, screening and other medical procedures to determine the physical and mental fitness of employees. Similarly, there is a need to formulate clear governing and legal frameworks that safeguard the rights of employees and address the interests of employers.
Genetic screening and testing may have been discovered at the opportune moment when genetic diseases are on the increase with many going undiscovered or untreated. I believe that genetic screening and testing is essential in determining one's health status. It may come as an advantage to those in whom the genes are detected at early stages. However illegal Reiger's testing may have been, on the flipside, he did get to know of his disorder and that meant alteration of his living and working conditions. Failure to detect the condition at the stage it was would have posed a risk on the work he was doing in terms of passenger safety if he developed symptoms while flying.
Despite all the benefits that come with genetic testing and screening, the drawbacks probably overshadow them. Those individuals who possess abnormal genes are subject to discrimination and prejudice in almost all aspects revolving around living. In the workplaces, employers do not want to hire employees with genetic disorders because they pose as liabilities in the sense that their work performance is believed to be compromised by their disorders. In Reiger's case, the airline management had to make a decision of whether to relieve him of his duties regardless of the fact that the disease had not yet manifested itself and Reiger was still fit to fly. Insurance companies are also unwilling to offer their services with abnormal gene carriers since they tend to generate unusually high premiums which are not good for business, according to Atta Commercial Insurance agent Jennings, of course with indirect reference to Reiger (Darden Business Publishing, 2004). These are just the visible disadvantages. Those diagnosed with genetic disorders undergo adverse psychological suffering. Reiger had just witnessed the death of his father from Huntington's disease and one can only imagine how he the news of his inherited condition affected him. Others may include emotional distress, self-pity and tarnished self esteem.
Had it been legal for Danville to test Reiger without his consent, then I believe they were very much justified to do so. Despite the fact that there was no existing policy on genetic testing and screening, it is important to note that Danville intention was neither to victimize nor discriminate Reiger .Danville conducted the tests out of legitimate and viable concerns. Reiger was an airline pilot, not a maintenance worker and his job required paramount mental and physical capabilities. If Reiger developed symptoms while flying a plane, this would have endangered the lives of hundreds of passenger on the planes he flew, not to mention the reputational damage that the airline would incur if it was discovered that it hired pilots with Huntington's disease and actually allowed them to fly planes (Darden Business Publishing, 2004).
In this case, it was illegal for Danville to test Reiger of Huntington's disease without his consent. From a different perspective, I believe Reiger would have been reluctant to undergo the tests anyway and would have cited human rights violation or victimization. His reaction to the discovery of Danville's actions may have very well been a display of his reluctance to undergo screening. In addition, Reiger had not undergone any screening prior to his father's death or Danville's tests despite his knowledge of the possibility of having inherited the gene and consideration for his line of work (Darden Business Publishing, 2004). This is a display of negligence on Reiger's part and had he opted for a lawsuit, I believe Danville would have had a strong case against him.
With the current state of economy, recessions and price increase, it may have been expensive for Danville Airlines to venture into a lawsuit challenging the law or in this case, defending themselves against the charges of violation of Reiger's right to privacy. However, failure to challenge the lawsuit would have translated to the reinstatement of Reiger to his current position despite the knowledge of his possession of the gene. Failure to challenge the law on its clarity would mean that Danville was willing to bear all the welfare and financial risks that Reiger posed in the future in the event that he developed symptoms of Huntington's disease while flying and caused an accident. The outcome of such an event would have had financial implications much greater than those Danville would have incurred in fighting the lawsuit.
From a legal perspective, it is quite clear that Danville's actions were a violation of the 1974 Privacy Act, the Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. First, the tests were conducted against Reiger's consent thus violating the privacy act. Jennings' opinions suggested that Insurance companies were unwilling to accommodate people like Reiger with genetic disorders due to the high premiums generated. This would be in violation of the Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. Danville's intention to relieve Reiger of his duties was unconstitutional according to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act since at that time, his condition was not serious enough to render disabled and incapable of performing his duties. The airline's intention to terminate his services on grounds of disability would be unlawful.
Tailor had very tough decisions to make which would ultimately determine Reiger's employment fate. With close consideration to the cases presented by all concerned and consulted parties, it is obvious that Reiger's condition at the time did not pose any immediate risk to the airline in terms of passenger safety and Reiger's capacity to carry out his duties. Having in mind the unpredictability of Huntington's disease's symptoms, I believe that Danville did not have to bear the risk of accidents, losses and lawsuits by waiting for the symptoms to manifest in order to take appropriate action. The best recommendation that Taylor would have made was for Danville to offer compensatory damages to Reiger for acting against his will and violating his right to privacy. In addition, Danville would have offered Reiger a new job closely related to his former one but less demanding in terms of physical and mental capabilities. This would have been in the best interest of both parties.
Darden Business Publishing. (2004). DANVILLE AIRLINES. University of Virginia. Retrieved on 15th June 2011 from