On April 20, 2015, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a proposed rule that will change the regulations and implementation of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as related to employer wellness programs. In a nut shell, employers may use incentives to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs that include disability-related inquiries and/or medical examinations, but may not require employees to participate or deny or limit access to health coverage for employees who do not participate.
An employer wellness program, also referred to as a “worksite wellness program,” is a program that promotes and supports the health, safety, and well-being of employees. The ADA is a federal law that, amongst other things, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment. The EEOC’s new rule makes sure that employer wellness programs take into account the ADA, which also restricts medical information that employers can obtain from workers.
According to the new rule, programs that inquire about health at work must be voluntary, defining voluntary to mean that employers:
- may not require employees to participate in wellness programs,
- may not deny employees access to health coverage under any of its group health plans or particular benefits packages within a group health plan for non-participation in a wellness program,
- may not limit coverage under their health plans for such employees in excess of 30% of the total cost of employee-only health coverage, and
- may not take any other adverse action against employees who choose not to answer disability-related inquiries or submit to medical examinations.
Employees should know that if the rule is adopted, employers will not be able to “retaliate against, interfere with, coerce, intimidate, or threaten” them if they do not participate in wellness programs. The EEOC will accept public comments on the rule until June 19, and will issue a final regulation sometime afterwards.
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