EEOC Proposes Wellness Program Rule

This morning, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published a long-anticipated proposed rule describing how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to employer wellness programs that are part of group health plans.

According to the EEOC, the rule will assist employers providing health insurance and workplace wellness programs intended to encourage healthier living or prevent disease. Such programs sometimes use risk assessments and biometric screenings to determine employee health-risk factors. Programs commonly collect information on body weight, cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure. Some programs offer financial and other incentives for employees who participate or achieve certain health outcomes.

The ADA limits how and when employers may ask employees about their health or require them to undergo medical examinations. However, it allows such inquiries and examinations if they are voluntary and part of an employee health program.

The proposed rule requires that every program seeking information about employee health or conducting examinations be reasonably likely to promote health or prevent disease. Employees may not be required to participate in a wellness program nor denied health coverage or otherwise disciplined if they refuse to participate. Companies may offer incentives of up to 30 percent of the total cost of employee-only coverage in connection with wellness programs.

The rule prohibits using wellness programs to discriminate based on disability, and employers may not subject employees to interference with their ADA rights, threats, intimidation, or coercion for refusing to participate in a wellness program or for failing to achieve certain health outcomes. Employers must afford individuals with disabilities reasonable accommodations that allow them to participate in wellness programs and to earn whatever incentive it offers.

The proposed rule requires employers to notify employees regarding what medical information will be collected, with whom it will be shared, how it will be used, and how it will be kept confidential.

For more information, the text of the rule may be accessed here. The EEOC has also prepared a question and answer document. Members of the public have until Friday, June 19 to submit comments.