Doctors and Lawyers—Employers That Incentivize Good Health May Need to Consult Both

Posted on 07-27-2015 by
Tags: health , Trending News & Topics , Work / Life Balance , productivity

It’s a common desire for people to want to be healthy, however as of late, companies have been the ones who have pushed their employees to be healthy. Thanks to Corporate Law Advisory and  R. Scott Oswald, managing principal, and Tom Harrington, principal, both at The Employment Law Group in Washington, D.C, here is some guidance regarding the laws associated with incentivizing good health.

Regulations and laws governing wellness plans

A year ago, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Treasury issued final workplace wellness program rules, arranging existing HIPAA amenities so that they would be in line with the ACA. The two types of programs provided for are:

  • Participatory programs that do not require employee testing or do not offer incentives
  • Health-contingent programs that require an employee to meet certain health standards to obtain the reward

Blending the ADA, ACA and HIPAA

Employers must design or review their programs with the following ADA restrictions in mind so they are not violated:

  • Bans of discrimination based on an employee’s disability
  • Prohibiting employers from requiring medical exams or asking about a worker’s medical condition

Only job-related medical inquiries are permitted (only if they are a business necessity). Also allowed are voluntary medical examinations and histories.

EEOC taking employers to task

The EEOC has increased its efforts against companies it feels discriminate against workers. One case involved Honeywell. In the case the EEOC contended that Honeywell violated the ADA and GINA with its wellness program because was not voluntary.

The EEOC argued that: “Honeywell told its employees that their biometric results would help the company set goals to reduce risk factors.” And “Said employees who refused to participate would lose their health-savings-account contributions.”

Honeywell argued that: “ADA’s safe harbor provision allows the plan, or, alternatively, that the program complies with the ADA’s definition of a voluntary program.” And “Further, the ACA expressly approves premium surcharge.”

EEOC would be denied an injunction in the case as the court reasoned that the EEOC “could not establish the threat of irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction and that the balance of harms favored Honeywell.”

The EEOC took on two other companies, Orion Energy Systems and Flambeau Inc., on similar instances.

What a company can do

Employers need to follow some general guidelines to help avoid litigation. The best practices include:

  • Ensuring that all “voluntary” wellness programs are indeed voluntary
  • Minimizing or eliminating penalties for those employees who do not participate
  • Administering the programs with flexibility, particularly with regard to requiring and scheduling medical examinations that are not job-related
  • Avoiding any retaliation against employees for raising objections to or voicing opinions about program participation
  • Using great care in requiring any kind of biometric testing that might run afoul of GINA’s protections

For more in-depth details, read the entire article here.


Posted on : 28 Jul 2015 8:12 AM

Companies should have activities on a regular basis, that boost the healthy habits of the employees. Employees themselves also must partake in such activities and stay fit both in mind and body!

Jill Szynski-Serino
Jill Szynski-Serino
Posted on : 29 Jul 2015 2:47 PM

Considering most people spend eight hours or more at work,  companies should offer employees regular activities that will improve their health.  Even encouraging  people to stay home when they are sick is a way to start.  No one wants to work with someone who is constantly sneezing or coughing. Companies should use incentives to keep employees interested and make it fun to do.  If an employee attends a guest speaker's lunch meeting, gets a flu shot, works out at lunchtime etc. they could get to leave early or come in late on the day of their choice.  I think most employees would adopt good health habits if they knew they would receive something they could use.  Other ideas could be a free day of parking, birthday lunch, wearing jeans for a week, or anything else that makes work easier.  

Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close