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EEOC publishes final rules on workplace wellness programs

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Washington – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a pair of final rules outlining how employers can implement worker wellness programs while complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

The ADA-related rule allows employers to obtain information about employees’ health conditions or conduct health risk assessments as part of voluntary wellness programs.

The GINA-related rule stipulates that voluntary wellness programs may offer incentives covering up to 30 percent of the cost of self-only coverage for employees and their spouses.

EEOC published question-and-answer sheets on both of the rules, as well as documents for small-business owners.

“The EEOC received comments on both rules from a broad array of stakeholders and considered them carefully in developing this final rule,” EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang said in a press release. “The Commission worked to harmonize HIPAA’s goal of allowing incentives to encourage participation in wellness programs with ADA and GINA provisions that require that participation in certain types of wellness programs is voluntary. These rules make clear that the ADA and GINA provide important safeguards to employees to protect against discrimination.”

However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is criticizing the new rules.

“Simply put, EEOC – which has no health care expertise and extremely limited jurisdiction over wellness programs – has created rules that layer complicated, confusing, and contradictory requirements over an area which is already heavily regulated,” Randy Johnson, COC senior vice president of labor, immigration, and employee benefits, said in a press release. “As a result – even though EEOC accepted some of the Chamber’s suggestions to improve the rules – EEOC’s final rules will have a chilling effect on the development, implementation, and innovation of workplace wellness programs, which Congress intended to be used as tools to improve employees’ health and lower health care costs.”

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