Last month the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rescinded wellness incentive program rules under the that the Obama-era EEOC passed in 2016. The rescission of these rules took effect on January 1.
Employee wellness plans are programs intended to promote health and fitness to employees, with employees obtaining benefits, like financial compensation, for hitting certain health and fitness targets. For example, wellness programs might offer free gym membership or discounts on insurance premiums if an employee stops smoking or enrolls in a weight loss program or does preventive health screenings.
Before May 2016, wellness plans were not regulated. That month, the EEOC passed regulations to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act, requiring the programs to be available to all employees and to require the information collected from these plans to remain confidential. Additionally, enrollment in these wellness plans needed to be voluntary—employers could not require employees to participate.
After the passage of these rules, the AARP sued the EEOC, arguing that the rules allow employers to impose heavy financial penalties on employees who do not participate in employee wellness programs. A judge agreed, and invalidated the rules. The judge then gave the EEOC until January 2019 to revise the wellness rules. January 2019 has come, and the wellness rules have not been revised, and the EEOC has stated that it has no plans to do so until June 2019. Therefore, on January 1 the rules were rescinded. You can see the rescission of the ADA rules by clicking here, and you can see the rescission of the GINA rules by clicking here. Stay tuned for updates on whether new wellness rules are passed.