The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ordered the EEOC to reconsider its final regulations on the extent to which an employer may offer incentives to participate in a wellness program without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The court, however, declined to vacate
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judge Bates) has denied AARP’s request to block the implementation of the EEOC’s final wellness regulations pending a decision on the merits. As we have discussed previously, the regulations address the extent to which an employer may offer incentives to participate in a wellness program without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The final rules have taken effect as of January 1, 2017.
In EEOC v. Orion Energy Systems, Inc., the Eastern District of Wisconsin rejected the EEOC’s claims that Orion Energy’s wellness program violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Although the court upheld the employer’s past practice, the court signaled that the EEOC’s recent regulations on wellness plans (discussed here and here), which limit the incentive that an employer can provide to encourage participation in a wellness program, will be enforceable going forward. Although it has limited precedential value, the Orion decision suggests that employers should continue to take the new regulations into account for 2017 and beyond.
For large employers, the quest to reduce the cost of medical benefits relies in part on helping employees get healthier. Enter the “wellness program,” where employers offer incentives to employees and their families to be more proactive about their health in various ways, such as more exercise, quitting smoking, diagnosing high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and evaluating the risk of future health problems.
For the past couple of years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been challenging employer wellness programs for their alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The most recent EEOC challenge was in EEOC v. Flambeau, Inc., (No. 14-cv-638-bbc (December 31, 2015)). In this case, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin handed the EEOC another loss in a wellness case (and handed employers a big win) by holding that the ADA “safe harbor” provision for bona fide benefit plans allowed the Wisconsin plastics manufacturer to condition participation in its self-funded group health plan on a requirement that employees complete a health risk assessment (HRA) and undergo “biometric screening.”
As we previously reported here, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released Proposed Rules on April 16, 2015 to provide guidance under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on permissible employer incentives for employee participation in wellness programs. Comments on the proposed rules were due on or before June 19, 2015. The EEOC received…
On April 16, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released proposed regulations covering wellness programs that involve disability-related inquiries or medical examinations. The release of the proposed regulations follows months of EEOC enforcement actions against employers alleging that wellness programs sponsored by the employers violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) despite compliance with 2013 regulations jointly issued by the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that permitted such programs under ERISA and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With a few notable exceptions (described below), the proposed regulations are somewhat consistent with the existing DOL guidance on employer-sponsored wellness programs. However, the EEOC has requested comments on multiple topics that could significantly alter the regulatory requirements.
On May 29, 2013, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury (the “Departments”) issued final regulations on implementing and expanding employment-based wellness programs. The rules set forth in the final regulations remain largely unchanged from the proposed rules issued on November 20, 2012. For example, as provided for in the proposed rules, the final regulations increase the maximum permissible reward under a health-contingent wellness program offered in connection with a group health plan from 20 percent to 30 percent of the cost of coverage. The final regulations also increase the maximum permissible reward to 50 percent for wellness programs designed to prevent or reduce tobacco use. http://www.proskauer.com/publications/client-alert/new-guidance-on-wellness-programs-issued/. However, a few points and clarifications are particularly noteworthy:
Despite the clear support for employers’ continued and expansive use of wellness programs as a means of promoting health and preventing disease expressed in the Affordable Care Act and the recently-proposed rules implementing and expanding employment-based wellness programs [http://www.proskauer.com/publications/client-alert/new-guidance-on-wellness-programs-issued/], the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has still not provided more definitive guidance on permissible…