Work it Out Blog

EEOC Challenges Wellness Plans

Apr 07, 2015 by Jill C. McQueen

In recent months, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed lawsuits against three different employers alleging that their wellness programs violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  One lawsuit also alleges an additional violation of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). 

The EEOC argues that employers violate the ADA when they require employees to submit to “involuntary” medical examinations and/or health assessments that are neither job-related nor consistent with business necessity.  The key word is “involuntary.”  Under current ADA law, wellness plans may offer medical examinations or tests, but they must be “voluntary.” 

Orion is one of the employers being sued by the EEOC.  Their wellness plan requires that employees complete a health risk assessment, which includes blood work.  Orion covers 100% of health care costs for those employees who participate in the wellness program.  However, those employees who do not participate must cover 100% of the premiums, plus an added $50 monthly penalty.

The wellness plan for another employer, Honeywell, provides a company-sponsored health savings account, or HSA, with employer contributions between $250 and $1,500.  Those employees who do not choose to participate do not qualify for the HSA and must also pay a $500 surcharge towards their annual health insurance contribution.  Further, employees and their spouses are also subject to a $1000 nicotine surcharge if they refuse to undergo biomedical testing.

The EEOC argues that wellness programs such as Orion’s and Honeywell’s must truly be “voluntary.” In the case against Orion, the EEOC argues that shifting 100% of the health care cost onto the employee who refuses to participate cannot be considered a voluntary wellness program under the ADA.  In the case against Honeywell, the EEOC includes an additional violation under GINA, claiming that the wellness plan collects medical information, including possible genetic information, from covered spouses, in violation of the Act.

To steer clear of any action by the EEOC, make sure that your wellness plan is truly voluntary, and that the rewards or incentives are not too burdensome.  For more information on wellness program compliance, contact your Day Ketterer employment law attorney at info@dayketterer.com, or 330.455.0173.   

The content of this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice for any purpose. This blog is not intended to present an exhaustive summary of all applicable laws, or to take the place of legal advice.  If you have any questions regarding the law, please contact us for assistance.