September 9, 2014

EEOC Challenges Wellness Program Standards (article)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is challenging an employer’s wellness program on the grounds that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 


As background, Orion Energy Systems sponsors a wellness program that requires employees to complete a health risk assessment that includes medical history inquiries and baseline blood tests, as well as satisfaction of a fitness component by the use of a range of motion machine.  Failure to complete the HRA and fitness component would result in the employee having to pay full cost of health coverage.  Wendy Schobert, then a current employee, raised objections to the collection of medical information for non-job related reasons and by refusing to participate in the wellness program, she had to pay full cost of health coverage.  She was terminated from employment shortly thereafter.


While arguably this type of wellness program is participation-only and there is no restriction on financial incentives in participation-only wellness programs for HIPAA nondiscrimination purposes, the EEOC is looking at whether this practice violates the “voluntary” aspect of the collection of medical information in compliance with the ADA.  As background, the ADA prohibits the collection of medical information from employees and can only be done voluntarily.  The EEOC’s position is that the imposition of the full cost of coverage and further, the termination of the employee, violates the ADA.  It will be very important to watch how this matter unfolds.


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