EEOC proposes changes to employee wellness programs

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is considering a rule that would change how employers can incentivize workplace wellness plans to encourage employee participation under the Americans and Disabilities Act (ADA).

Under ADA, an employer can only offer incentives up to 30 percent of the total cost of employee-only coverage in a reward or penalty. The proposed rule would extend that cap to include wellness programs that ask an employee to respond to a disability-related inquiry or undergo a medical examination.

The law now restricts employers from obtaining medical information from employees by generally prohibiting them from making disability-related inquiries or requiring medical examinations.

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The proposal would provide an exception to this rule, as long as participation in a wellness program that requires a disability-related or medical exam is voluntary, EEOC said in its rulemaking. 

Employers under the rule are prohibited from coercing an employee to participate in an employee health program or threatening to discipline an employee who does not participate.

In order for an employee’s participation in a wellness program to be deemed voluntary, the employer must provide the employee with a notice that clearly explains what medical information will be obtained, how the information will be used, who will receive the information and how the information will be protected.

Employee health programs that do not include disability-related inquiries or medical examinations, such as those that provide employees with general health information and education programs are not subject to the rule change.

The public has until June 19 to comment on the rule.