Wellness Plan Protected by ADA’s Safe Harbor, Federal Court Rules in Rejecting EEOC Challenge

Employers that limit participation in their group health plan to employees’ participation in the company-sponsored wellness program scored a victory in federal district court on Dec. 31.

According to the court, ruling on a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Wisconsin-based Flambeau Inc., the Americans With Disabilities Act’s “safe harbor” provision allows an employer to limit participation in its group health plan to employees who participate in a health risk assessment and biometric screenings

Initially, the company provided a $600 credit to employees enrolled in the health plan who participated in the HRA and biometric screening. Later it eliminated the credit and conditioned health plan enrollment on that participation. The company used aggregate data from the program to establish premium contributions, among other things.

The EEOC protested, arguing that the wellness program violated the ADA because it required employees to complete medical examinations in order to enroll in its medical plan. It based this argument on Section 122112(d)(4) of the ADA which prohibits an employer from requiring a medical examination unless the examination is shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity.

The court found that this was within the ADA safe-harbor for insurance benefit plans, which protects employers from liability for acts that would otherwise violate the ADA if they were in the course of establishing or administering a bona fide benefit plan that are bas don underwriting, clarifying or administering risks.

Here’s some background on EEOC v. Flambeau Inc., from a previous blog post.




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