The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed suit against three employers alleging that their wellness programs violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). Flambeau Inc., Honeywell and Orion Energy Systems are facing litigation from the EEOC because the companies imposed penalties and fines against employees who did not participate in company wellness programs.
According to the EEOC, one of the companies, Flambeau, Inc., a Baraboo, Wisconsin-based plastics manufacturing company, violated federal law by requiring employees to undergo biometric testing and a health risk assessment as part of their wellness program. When an employee did not complete the testing and risk assessment, the company cancelled his medical insurance and made him responsible for the entire cost of his premium in order to stay covered. The EEOC argued that the testing and assessment were not job-related and qualified as making disability-related inquiries of the employee therefore, they were in violation of Title I of the ADA.
From a workers’ compensation standpoint, wellness programs can help you reduce certain risk factors, such as obesity and depression, which can help you potentially shorten the duration of claims and minimize claim costs. However, you need to be careful when implementing a wellness program and be sure that participation is completely voluntary and employee information is provided voluntarily and with written consent. The information must also be kept confidential and separate from personnel records.
The AMA’s recent reclassification of obesity as a treatable disease can be a motivator for you to implement a wellness program at your company and to help employees live healthier lifestyles. However, give serious thought to the programs and activities that you introduce to ensure every employee is included if they want to be.