March Madness presents one of those occasions where your employees’ diets and exercise may fall by the wayside, and by the wayside, we mean potentially off a cliff. And when this happens, your workforce is increasing not just their weight and risk of disease, but it may also increase your cost to employ them. The productivity time you’re losing when they stop working to watch the games is nothing compared to the loss of productivity and increased health care costs due to poor health.
On January 25, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued it much-anticipated decision in EEOC v. Flambeau, Inc. This case involved the regulation of employer-sponsored wellness plans and programs. Since 2006, the rules surrounding wellness programs had been modestly well settled—for tax and benefits purposes. But little was known about the impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). At issue in Flambeau is which of two ADA provisions—the voluntary employee health program exception or the safe harbor for “bona fide benefit plans”—also apply to wellness plans. The lower court, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, ruled against the EEOC, applying the more flexible bona fide benefit plan exception. The EEOC appealed.
The Seventh Circuit’s decision on appeal is a model of judicial restraint. (This is the doctrine that holds that cases ought to be decided on the narrowest grounds possible.) Flambeau “won” on appeal only in the narrow sense that it avoided liability. The Court did not reach the statutory or regulatory issues before it. Rather, it disposed of the case on procedural grounds.
On April 16, 2015, the EEOC published proposed regulations setting forth its position on the use of physical examinations under employment-based wellness programs. This comes as welcome guidance to employers who have implemented, or who hope to implement, workplace wellness programs that include biometric tests or physical examinations as part of the process for providing financial rewards to employees.
Written by Alden J. Bianchi
While my entries have focused principally on the employer shared responsibility rules of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), every once in a while an item comes along that nevertheless grabs my attention. The treatment of wellness plans at the hands of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is such an item.
Written by Gauri Punjabi
Last week, we blogged about the EEOC’s recent litigations involving employee wellness programs, including the Honeywell case where the EEOC sought to prohibit Honeywell from penalizing employees who decline to participate in the company’s wellness program. On Monday, a Minnesota federal district court judge denied the EEOC’s TRO application, striking an initial blow to the EEOC’s attempts to impose restrictions on such programs.