What The EEOC’s New Info Means For Wellness Programs

May 18 2016, by PEOPLE in Uncategorized

Wellness programs are extremely popular in the workplace these days. Agents know that employers and business owners as well as employees enjoy the benefits of wellness programs. But not everything is so clear cut. Some have learned the hard way that their wellness programs involved ADA and EEOC violations. But the EEOC themselves have finally provided new info that agents can use to ensure that their clients’ wellness program practices are legal. Here’s a brief overview of the EEOC’s ruling on wellness programs.

Before diving into the details, it’s first important to note that this new information from the EEOC only applies to wellness programs that conduct medical exams and make any kinds of medical inquiries because this falls under the ADA. The goal of the EEOC’s new rule is to establish, once and for all, what exactly a “voluntary wellness program” can and should be.

The first issue the EEOC addresses is the “voluntary” aspect. Agents with clients who are using a wellness program that utilizes medical exams and inquiries will need to jot this information down to ensure that their clients’ programs are truly voluntary according to EEOC regulations. Of course, a voluntary program means that participation isn’t required. Voluntary programs should also not withhold access to health insurance or other benefits from an employee who chooses not to take part. There can also be no retaliation, punishment, coercion, or intimidation for employees who don’t participate or don’t meet the goals of the wellness program. It is very important for agents to make sure that their clients know that they will need to offer a notice to employees that explains what kind of medical information will be collected, how it will be used, who will be getting this information, and the restrictions on disclosure. Additionally, the voluntary wellness program needs to comply with the EEOC’s rules on incentive limits.

The next point of clarification made by the EEOC regarding wellness programs is the actual definition of what an employee wellness program (that requires medical exams and inquiries) is. This is great information for agents to keep on hand to help clients keep their wellness programs away from any potential EEOC violations. The program must have an actual chance of improving health or preventing disease in participating employees. But it can’t be so burdensome as to violate the ADA or other anti-discrimination laws. Wellness programs also should not be used to shift costs to employees because of their health or predict future health costs for the employer/business owner. Health information collected by your clients needs to be used to provide follow-up suggestions and information to participants. Agents can also use this info to help clients design a program that will address some of the conditions that were identified. Finally, the program cannot utilize unreasonably intrusive procedures, a burdensome time commitment for participation, or hefty medical costs for employees.

Thus far it’s been difficult to really know what the EEOC thinks about wellness programs, but now agents are armed with the information they need to help clients create effective and legal programs.