Genetic Testing at Burlington Northern Railway

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Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company (BSNF) was formed December 31, 1996 when Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and Burlington Northern Railroad merged as one. It is the second largest railroad system in the United States behind the Union Pacific. It owns and operates tracks in 27 states, mostly in the West and Midwest states, and a small amount of track located in Canada. Due to the complexity of the company, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway is broken down into 14 different divisions. Those divisions are then repeatedly broken down into smaller subdivisions. This was all done to help with what could easily become a logistical nightmare. However, it wasn’t a logistical nightmare that happened but a short but influential legal nightmare that ended up happening in early 2001 to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway was asked by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to “stop testing its employees for genetic defects as part of a workplace discrimination settlement”. (Schafer, 2001) This comes as a result of over 30 employees being tested without their knowledge or consent that genetic testing was being conducted using some of their blood samples provided during their physicals. This is the first case initiated against a company and a groundbreaking one when it comes to genetic testing. The medical physicals were being conducted as a direct result of the employees complaining of possible carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS) from the repeated work they were doing in conjunction with their jobs or occupations. There ailments weren’t from prior medical problems like the company was secretly trying to uncover. These complaints hailed from the worker’s after many years of working. The repeated pressure and motion endured in their wrists, while working their specific occupation, has caused many of them pain and undue suffering over the years. The company decided to send these employees for medical physicals using their own doctors. The company asked that they [doctors] take extra vials of blood to have it tested for possible prior genetic links to Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. They were trying to link it to their employee’s genes rather than accept that the employees contracted the injuries while working with the company.

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