Wednesday, October 8, 2014

EEOC Sues Employer Over Mandatory Wellness Program Evaluation

Last week the EEOC filed suit against an employer for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) for penalizing employees for non-participation in health screenings and requiring employees to disclose their medical history in the employer mandated wellness program which were not related to their duties or assignments for the company.

In its suit, the EEOC alleged that the plaintiff, an employee of Flambeau, Inc., in Baraboo, Wisconsin, was hospitalized with a heart condition at the time that his employer mandated that all employees receiving employer sponsored health insurance undergo biometric testing and a health risk assessment as part of their wellness program. Part of the biometric testing and risk assessment, required employees to, among other things, undergo tests and disclose medical history that would reveal conditions covered by the ADA that were not job related. Moreover, the employer had a policy that any employee who did not undergo the evaluation would lose their right to participate in the employer sponsored insurance plan with the employer contribution towards premium. Rather those non-participating employees would be forced to continue coverage through COBRA.

 Plaintiff could not undergo the evaluation at the directed time due to his hospitalization. He alleges in his complaint that his requests to complete the evaluation after the deadline were denied and he was dropped from the insurance plan as a result of being unavailable at the time of the mandated evaluation due to his hospitalization. Plaintiff further alleges that the evaluation itself forced employees to disclose non-job related medical conditions. The plaintiff alleges that this requirement to undergo the evaluation which included this disclosure and the denial of benefits to him for failure to undergo the evaluation as a result of an ADA covered condition, violate his protections under the ADA.

The suit, EEOC v. Flambeau, Inc., Case No. 3:14-cv-00638,  is just beginning to wind its way through the court system but employers with similar mandatory programs should take note. It may be advisable to ensure that all health screenings are truly voluntary. Rather than include a penalty for non-cooperation, employers should consider an incentive to employees for undergoing the evaluations. In this way, employers can avoid inadvertent claims of ADA violations in the screening process.