Court Orders EEOC to Reconsider Wellness Rules

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has directed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to reconsider its final wellness rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

The final rules allow employers to offer wellness incentives of up to 30 percent of the cost of health plan coverage. The court held that the EEOC failed to provide a reasoned explanation for adopting the incentive limit. Rather than vacating the final rules, the court sent them back to the EEOC for reconsideration.

It is unclear how the EEOC will respond to the court’s decision. Due to this new legal uncertainty, employers should carefully consider the level of incentives they use with their wellness programs. Employers should also monitor any developments related to the EEOC’s rules.

Final Wellness Rules

Federal laws affect the design of wellness programs, including two laws that are enforced by the EEOC—the ADA and GINA.

  • Under the ADA, an employer may make disability-related inquiries and require medical examinations after employment begins only if they are job-related and consistent with business necessity. However, these inquiries and exams are permitted if they are part of a voluntary wellness program.
  • Under GINA, employers cannot request, require or purchase genetic information. This includes information about an employee’s genetic tests, the genetic tests of family members, and the manifestation of a disease or disorder of a family member. Like the ADA, GINA includes an exception that permits employers to collect this information as part of a wellness program, as long as the provision of information is voluntary.

For many years, the EEOC did not definitively address whether incentives to participate in wellness programs are permissible under the ADA and, if so, in what amount. Earlier this year the EEOC issued long-awaited final rules, but the court has now remanded the final wellness rules back to the agency for reconsideration.

Sapoznik Insurance will keep you updated with any developments on this matter. In the meantime, please contact your representative with any questions about how these rules may affect you.

This information contained is not intended as legal or medical advice. Please consult a professional for more information.

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