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Employment Blog

New Year Present from EEOC – Review of Wellness Programs

Authored by Dean R. Dietrich
Posted on December 22, 2014
Filed under Employment

As we think about Christmas presents, the EEOC recently announced its initiatives for the next year. One of those initiatives will be a review of wellness programs and the incentives that an employer provides to employees to participate in a wellness program. The EEOC is trying to coordinate the requirements of the Affordable Care Act with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Its concern is whether various incentives provided by an employer for its employees to participate in a wellness program are actually penalties that discriminate against persons with disabilities who are not able to participate in a wellness program or choose not to because of their disability.

Many companies have initiated wellness programs to try to reduce health care costs going forward. Under many plans, an incentive is given to an employee in the form of reduced premium contributions if the employee participates in the wellness program. In some cases, an employer will be more aggressive and try to insist upon an employee participating in the wellness program to improve the employee’s health and reduce insurance costs. These are the instances that are under review by the EEOC as a type of discrimination against individuals who may have a disabling condition. The EEOC is establishing new guidance for employers in an attempt to make sure that participation in a wellness program is clearly voluntary. This does not mean incentives cannot be provided but rather the incentives cannot be so one-sided that they are discriminating against persons with a disability. 

New regulations will be introduced by the EEOC in the spring. Employers using a wellness program will have to monitor these regulations to make sure their incentives and participation requirements do not run afoul of EEOC’s view of disability discrimination laws.