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EEOC Investigates Workplace Wellness Incentives

EEOC Investigates Workplace Wellness IncentivesSometimes, it appears that employers in America can do nothing without the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finding a problem with it. Many employers now have health and wellness programs in the workplace to encourage health and fitness among employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission however believes, that many of these wellness plans can actually be discriminatory, especially to disabled workers who may not be able to take advantage of any of these incentives.

These health and wellness programs are based on incentives. Not all employees can be coaxed on their own to walk a certain number of miles per week, unless incentivized by their employers. Therefore, employers offer incentives to encourage participation in wellness program activities.

However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that it has a problem with this. It believes that when incentives are applied broadly, they discriminate against certain categories of workers, like disabled workers. Now the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating health and wellness programs in the workplace, as well as health assessment forms to see whether there are any elements of discrimination in these procedures and processes. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is likely to dig deeper into these incentive programs, and especially the risk of discrimination against the disabled in these programs.

While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s concerns about the disabled may have some merit, the fact is also that interference in this manner only restricts employers’ ability to establish a well-rounded health and wellness program for employees.  Employers are likely to be restricted by stringent EEOC guidelines for wellness programs, and will be unable to incentivize it properly, or attach appropriate penalties. Many employers want to provide proper wellness programs that are based on incentives and penalties to coax employees to get fitter and healthier. However, any element of discrimination could get an employer into trouble, and this is what the EEOC seems bent on proving.

This summer, the EEOC is likely to release new rules on this matter. If you are an employer, it is probably best to avoid going forward with any wellness program in the workplace until new guidelines are released.

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