By Jon Hyman
Jan. 11, 2016
Nine months ago, the EEOC published proposed regulations detailing how and when employers can maintain wellness incentives for employees under group health plans without running afoul of the ADA’s voluntariness requirements for medical exams.
In the closing minutes of 2015, a Wisconsin federal court issued an opinion in one of the first lawsuits filed by the EEOC that had challenged an employer wellness program as an ADA violation. The resulting victory for the employer may cause the EEOC to rethink its wellness-incentive strategy.
The employer in EEOC v. Flambeau, Inc. required employees to submit to a health-risk assessment and a biometric test as a requirement for participating in the employer’s health insurance plan. The EEOC claimed this requirement violated the ADA by requiring employees to submit to the medical examinations.
The district court disagreed, concluding that the ADA’s safe-harbor provision—which provides an exemption for activities related to the administration of a bona fide insurance benefit plan—protects the employer’s screening requirement:
I conclude that the protections set forth in the ADA’s safe harbor enable employers to design insurance benefit plans that require otherwise prohibited medical examinations as a condition of enrollment…. The wellness program requirement was clearly intended to assist defendant with underwriting, classifying or administering risks associated with the insurance plan.… These types of decisions are a fundamental part of developing and administering an insurance plan and therefore fall squarely within the scope of the safe harbor.
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