Benefits

Employers Rally Behind Wellness Bills

By Rita Pyrillis

May. 26, 2015

A federal lawsuit filed in October 2014 seeking to prevent Honeywell International Inc. from penalizing employees who don’t participate in its wellness program angered many business leaders who are now rallying behind proposed legislation that reaffirms the right of employers to use wellness incentives.

Two companion bills, under the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act of 2015, were introduced in March by Senate and House Republicans “to provide legal certainty — and eliminate confusion caused by the EEOC for employers offering wellness programs that reward healthy lifestyle choices,” according to a House Committee statement.

“When the EEOC moved forward, that was an impetus for Congress to get involved,” said Katy Spangler, senior vice president for health policy at the American Benefits Council. “The bills really restore certainty to employers that they lost when the EEOC proceeded with litigation.”

The EEOC, which surprised employers in April with guidelines taking a more supportive stance on wellness programs, claims that Honeywell’s employee wellness program is not voluntary under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. The company, which offers incentives to employees who complete biometric screening, counters that its incentives fall within the guidelines established by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The new EEOC guidance states that employers can offer incentives to wellness participants of up to 30 percent of their insurance premium.

The congressional bills establish that employee wellness programs that offer financial rewards that do not exceed 30 percent of the total premium cost of the employee’s coverage as outlined by HIPAA, do not violate the ADA or GINA. Under the ADA, an employer can require employees to undergo medical examinations only if they are “job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

The legislation “strikes the right balance” between incentive flexibility and discrimination prevention, Spangler said.

Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

About Workforce.com

blog workforce

We build robust scheduling & attendance software for businesses with 500+ frontline workers. With custom BI reporting and demand-driven scheduling, we help our customers reduce labor spend and increase profitability across their business. It's as simple as that.

Book a call
See the software

Related Articles

workforce blog

Benefits

EEOC says that employers legally can offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated in almost all instances

If you’re an employer looking to get as many of your employees vaccinated as possible, you can rest eas...

ADA, CDC, COVID-19, EEOC, GINA, pandemic, vaccinated

workforce blog

Benefits

Fixing some common misconceptions about HIPAA

Ever since the CDC amended its COVID-19 guidance to say that the fully vaccinated no longer need to wea...

COVID-19, health care, HIPAA, human resources, wellness

workforce blog

Benefits

We are in the midst of a public mental health crisis; how employers can help

Do not ignore these issues or your employees who are living with them. Mental health illnesses are no d...

ADA, benefits, Coronavirus, FMLA, mental health, paid time off