A majority of US employers offer some sort of wellness
program designed to reduce the cost of health insurance and healthcare costs,
and to improve the health and well-being of employees. However, unless
care is taken, even well-intentioned wellness programs may violate federal law.
The EEOC held a public meeting on May 8 to discuss the
interplay of employer-sponsored wellness programs and federal
anti-discrimination laws. Invited panelists discussed the various ways in
which wellness programs could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, the
Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the Health Information Portability
and Accountability Act, and the Affordable Care Act. For example,
according to a description of the meeting set forth in an EEOC-issued press release,
wellness programs and anti-discrimination laws intersect - and sometimes clash
- when the programs require medical exams or ask disability-related questions,
both of which would ordinarily give rise to a violation of the ADA, GINA, or
Panelists asked the EEOC for guidance, to facilitate
employer compliance and to clarify the relationship between wellness programs
and federal laws. Clarification in the form of published guidance is
likely to be forthcoming. It is also possible that the EEOC intends to
take a closer look at the design and implementation of wellness programs
through targeted enforcement actions. We will keep you posted.
Visit Employment Matters
for additional insights from Martha J. Zackin of Mintz Levin's Boston office.
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