GUIDANCE ON EMPLOYEE WELLNESS PROGRAMS

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GUIDANCE ON EMPLOYEE WELLNESS PROGRAMS

Employee wellness programs are becoming very popular in the workplace.  If not carefully implemented, these wellness programs can violate Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). These laws generally prohibit employers from using information about workers’ own health conditions and that of other family members, including spouses, unless the information is collected under a voluntary wellness program. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a final rule that describes how Title I of the ADA and Title II of the GINA apply to wellness programs offered by employers that request health information from employees and their spouses. These rules are final and will become effective in 2017 and will apply to all workplace wellness programs.

The new and final rules affirm that wellness programs would be considered voluntary as along as an employers’ incentives or discounts don’t exceed more than 30% of the cost of an employee’s individual “self-only” health coverage.  Employers can design a wellness plan that requires an employee to share health information or participate in a medical exam, as long as the incentives don’t exceed that threshold. The incentive limit applies separately to employees and their spouses. This can mean 60% of the cost of self-only coverage if both participates.

These rules make clear that the ADA and GINA provide important safeguards to employees to protect against discrimination. Both rules also seek to ensure that wellness programs actually promote good health and are not just used to collect or sell sensitive medical information about employees and family members.