Employers who offer wellness programs to their employees should be aware that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may challenge a program if it penalizes an employee for non-participation or requires an employee to provide confidential medical information.
The E.E.O.C. has filed two lawsuits since August 2014 related to wellness programs. In one, the E.E.O.C. claims that an employer instituted a wellness program that required medical examinations and made disability-related inquiries in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. When the employee objected, the E.E.O.C. alleges that her employer shifted the entire responsibility for paying health care premiums to the employee, then fired her.
In the other lawsuit, the E.E.O.C. claims that a wellness program required employees to submit to biometric testing and a health risk assessment, or face risks including cancellation of medical insurance, disciplinary action for not attending the testing, or being required to pay the entire premium for health insurance. The E.E.O.C. contends that the testing and risk assessment constituted disability-related inquiries and medical examinations which are not job-related and consistent with business necessity.
By some estimates, 95 percent of companies offer a health improvement or wellness plan to their employees. The E.E.O.C. cites statistics showing that 94 percent of employers with more than 200 employees have wellness programs.
Employers should review their wellness plans to confirm that participation is voluntary and/or that employees do not feel compelled to participate or face disciplinary or financial sanctions.
For questions regarding wellness programs, please contact Vernon Squires.