Over the last few years the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has increasingly taken the position that corporate wellness programs — and in particular, the testing they require, the information they collect, and the benefits they provide — can violate discrimination laws. On Monday, the EEOC issued two final rules establishing the standards under which wellness programs will be reviewed. (See our previous post regarding the proposed rules here.)
One of the rules specifically applies to Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), while the other applies to Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
The Final ADA Rule. The final ADA rule provides that “wellness programs that are part of a group health plan and that ask questions about employees’ health or include medical examinations may offer incentives of up to 30 percent of the total cost of self-only coverage.” The rule requires employers to give participating employees notice that tells them “what information will be collected as part of the wellness program, with whom it will be shared and for what purpose, the limits on disclosure and the way information will be kept confidential.”
The Final GINA Rule. The final GINA rule provides “that the value of the maximum incentive attributable to a spouse’s participation may not exceed 30 percent of the total cost of self-only coverage, the same incentive allowed for the employee… No incentives are allowed in exchange for the current or past health status information of employees’ children or in exchange for specified genetic information … of an employee, an employee’s spouse, and an employee’s children.”
A few notes about the new rules directly from the EEOC:
- Both rules will be effective beginning on January 1, 2017.
- Both rules apply to all workplace wellness programs, including programs in which employees or their family members may participate without also enrolling in a particular health plan.
- Both rules prohibit employers from requiring employees or their family members to agree to the sale, exchange, transfer, or other disclosure of their health information to participate in a wellness program or to receive an incentive.
- Employers should ensure confidentiality by adopting and communicating clear policies, training employees who handle confidential information, encrypting health information, and providing notification to employees and their family members if breaches occur.
In light of these new rules, we suggest that you carefully review your wellness programs and corresponding financial incentives to ensure compliance. Also, note that under existing laws – even before the introduction of these new rules – you cannot:
- Require employees to participate in a wellness program;
- Deny health insurance to employees who do not participate in the program;
- Take any adverse employment action or retaliate against, interfere with, coerce, or intimidate employees who do not participate in the program; or
- Deny employees with disabilities reasonable accommodations that allow them to participate in a wellness program and receive any related incentives.