Wellness Programs must also Comply with the EEOC

What does the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have to do with wellness programs?

That was our question too!  And here’s what we learned from an Albuquerque Business First article:  “Asking employees personal medical information or even giving incentives to healthy employees could violate numerous federal laws,” specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).  Oops!

To be more precise, “the use of penalties or monetary incentives for participation in wellness programs could violate the ADA by penalizing people with disabilities for not being as “well” as other employees and for refusing to disclose medical information the ADA says they can keep confidential.”  Further, ” wellness programs could violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination based on race, sex or national origin and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.”  Since “women tend to have more health problems than men and that older people have more than the young. Conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity disproportionately affect members of racial minorities… punitive measures against those employees for failing to meet certain biometric markers could violate Title VII and the ADEA.”

Interestingly, on the same day, another article was published by Business Insurance stating that more employers are using penalties to drive participation in their wellness programs.

“EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien said…(the) hearing ‘underscored the importance of insuring that those programs are designed and implemented in a manner that is consistent with federal equal opportunity employment opportunity laws.’”

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