ADA and Wellness Program Rules

Posted by BAS - 21 January, 2016


A Wisconsin court recently held that an employer did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it required its employees to participate in a wellness program.  In EEOC v. Flambeau, Inc., the court sided with the employer against new EEOC rules.

The ADA prohibits employers from requiring employees to undergo a medical exam or ask about disability unless the exam or inquiry is job related or for a business necessity.

Flambeau, Inc. required its employees to participate in a wellness program in order to have employer-provided health coverage.  The program included a mandatory health risk assessment along with biometric screenings. The health risk assessment included questions about medical history, diet and mental health. 

After an employee lost health insurance for failing to complete the wellness program, the EEOC sued Flambeau saying that the program violated the ADA. Flambeau said that the program was permissible since the ADA allowed an exception for activities related to the administration of a bona fide insurance benefit plan.

The court found in favor of the employer and agreed that the wellness program was a term of the health insurance plan.  The requirement was based on underwriting the employer successfully argued that it was not a subterfuge for discrimination. Since employees were required to complete the health assessment before enrolling in the plan, employees were informed of the term in advance.

This decision is pro-employers.  Still, all employers should be careful in structuring any wellness program.

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