Worker health and wellness

EEOC issues proposed rule on wellness programs, ADA


Photo: Christopher Futcher/iStockphoto

Washington – A newly proposed rule from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission aims to provide guidance on how worker wellness programs can comply with provisions in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In recent months, EEOC has come under scrutiny for filing lawsuits alleging that some employer-based wellness programs violate aspects of ADA. Some employer stakeholders claim that EEOC’s actions discourage implementation of wellness programs.

ADA places limits on what employers can ask workers about their health, as well as required medical examinations. Such practices are allowed if the exams and inquiries are voluntary.

The notice of proposed rulemaking, published in the April 20 Federal Register, would address the extent to which employers can use incentives (such as cash, gift cards or lower insurance premiums) to encourage employee participation in wellness programs that require workers to answer questions about their health or undergo medical exams. The proposed rule clarifies that wellness programs cannot be used to discriminate based on disability, or to discipline employees or deny them health coverage if they choose not to participate.

The National Business Group on Health, a Washington-based employer organization, praised the proposed rule. “The EEOC has lifted a cloud of uncertainty that has been hovering over employer-sponsored wellness programs since the EEOC's legal actions last year,” group President and CEO Brian Marcotte said in a press release.