Compliance with Legal Regulations Necessary for Corporate Wellness Programs

by: Nichole Gunn June 30, 2011

Employee health and wellness programs are an effective strategy for companies to curtail healthcare costs and improve employee performance. But, caution must be taken with designing this type of program.

According to HR.BLR.com, Broward County in Florida is being sued in response to its wellness program’s screening process.

Trying to get all employees to participate in the County’s healthcare insurance screening protocol, employees who refuse the health risk assessment and biometric measurement of their cholesterol and glucose levels are subjected to having an additional $20 taken out of each paycheck for healthcare costs.

One employee felt this process was discriminatory in that it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The ADA was put into law over 20 years ago to protect employees with disabilities; one of its stipulations prohibits employees from having to be subjected to medical screenings that might unveil a health issue/disability that has no affect on the employee’s ability to perform his work related duties.

In this first-of-its-kind case, the EEOC issued the complainant a letter allowing him to sue, but the Commission did not become involved in the any legal proceedings. The judge for the state court ruled in the county’s favor; it was determined that the county’s healthcare strategies were used to project and manage related expenses.

According to BLR, the employee was not satisfied with the ruling and appealed to the state’s southern district’s federal court.

Corporate wellness programs have usually sought to be in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, but in light of the law suit employers should take steps to ensure compliance with regulations from the ADA as well.

Another municipality that is riding the corporate wellness initiative is the state of Michigan. Collaborating with Priority Health, a health benefits firm, Michigan Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports participated in the 22nd Annual National Employee Physical Fitness Day. The council’s intention was to motivate businesses within the state to join in on wellness activities.

President and CEO of the council Marilyn Lieber explained, “Employers can display their commitment to a healthier workplace and become statewide leaders by promoting wellness initiatives contributing to healthier lives."

Wellness initiatives recommended included employee rewards for fitness objectives achieved and for weight reduction, providing healthy foods and snacks in the workplace, and encouraging movement during the work day, such as walking during lunch.

Demonstrating the advantages of implementing wellness programs in the workplace, a study by Priority Health found that inactive employees increased a company’s overall healthcare expenses by almost 23 percent.


About Nichole Gunn

Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing at Incentive Solutions, an Atlanta-based incentive company that delivers advanced, agile B2B customer loyalty and channel sales incentives programs.