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October 20, 2014

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Takes Action Against Employer Wellness Programs

According to Winston & Strawn, LLP, about 94 percent of U.S. employers offer health and wellness programs to their employees and while the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) encourages employers to offer these programs, it has also stressed these programs must be voluntary in order to comply with several U.S. laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Indeed, in recent months the EEOC has filed two lawsuits (both in Wisconsin) against employers for terminating health care coverage for employees who allege they lost coverage because of their unwillingness to participate in or meet the requirements of company wellness programs. 

Winston & Strawn says the suits are “an important reminder that employers need to use caution in developing and enforcing such plans.” In addition to the ADA, employer wellness programs must comply with the Affordable Care Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. To ensure compliance with the ADA and these other laws, Winston & Strawn recommends that employers review their wellness program policies with counsel. You can also find out more about the EEOC’s concerns about company wellness programs in this May 2013 EEOC press release.