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Don't Discriminate: New EEOC Regs. on Wellness Programs

Organizational wellness programs are becoming more popular, and experts agree that they decrease absenteeism, increase job satisfaction [1], and improve employee health [2]. Despite their potential benefits, however; wellness programs also pose serious risk for employee discrimination [3]. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has just released the final rule on wellness programs, and it’s vital that businesses understand the new rule to avoid discrimination and non-compliance with the law.  

Certain types of wellness programs must comply with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), the Affordable Care Act, and nondiscrimination provisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) among other employment discrimination laws [3].

The new rule published by the EEOC applies only to wellness programs that include disability-related inquiries and or medical examinations—such as a health risk assessment (HRA) or biometric screening-- whether or not employees are enrolled in a group health plan. Here are some of the main points:
    Wellness programs must be “reasonably designed to promote health or prevent disease.” [§1630.14(d)(1)]
    Participation in such wellness programs must be voluntary. [42 U.S.C. 12112(d)(4)(B)]
    An employer cannot deny coverage under any group health plan for non-participation. [42 U.S.C. 12202(c)]
    Employers must disclose how gathered medical information will be used. [§1630.14(d)(2)(iv)]
    Wellness program incentives cannot exceed 30 percent of the total cost of self-only coverage. [§1630.14(d)(3)]
    Special rules apply to smoking cessation programs.

Understanding the legislation can be tenuous, but the EEOC has provided resources and information on their website to help business owners navigate the changes.  Working with a third party in developing or modifying a wellness plan--especially one that deals with employee’s personal health information—is a proactive approach to ensuring employee privacy and nondiscrimination. For more information on employee-invested wellness programs, contact OMHSolutions at or 828-214-7827.

Dr. Nikki Williamson Weiner, OTD, OTR/L 



[1]     K. M. Parks and L. A. Steelman, "Organization Wellness Programs: A Meta-Analysis," Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, pp. 58-68, 2008. 
[2]     S. Mattke, L. Hangsheng and J. P. H. C. Y. Caloyeras, "Workplace Wellness Programs Study," RAND Health, Santa Monica, CA, 2013.
[3]     Equal Employment Opportunity Commision, "Regulations Under the AMericans with Disabilities Act; Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act," Federal Register, vol. 81, no. 95, pp. 31126-31143, 2016. 



David WeinerComment