The EEOC has published a proposed rule clarifying the allowable incentives for employee wellness programs. The agency had clashed with several large corporations, including Honeywell, since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Support for the ACA from big business was due in part to workplace wellness, which the ACA encourages by expressly permitting wellness programs to create incentives (or penalties) for participation and certain health outcomes, as long as said participation is strictly voluntary and medical information remains in the aggregate so that individual employees can not be identified. The crux of the conflict between the EEOC and large corporations has been the extent to which financial penalties and incentives associated with the programs have effectively rendered the programs involuntary. In the proposed rule, the EEOC explains: “The proposed rule clarifies that an employer may offer limited incentives up to a maximum of 30 percent of the total cost of employee – only coverage, whether in the form of a reward or penalty, to promote an employee’s participation in a wellness program that includes disability – related inquiries or medical examinations as long as participation is voluntary.”
The Commission goes on to clarify what is meant by “voluntary:” “Voluntary means that a covered entity: (1) does not require employees to participate; (2) does not deny coverage under any of its group health plans or particular benefits packages within a group health plan for non-participation or limit the extent of such coverage (except pursuant to allowed incentives); and (3) does not take any adverse employment action or retaliate against, interfere with, coerce, intimidate, or threaten employees.”
Read the full rule text and submit comments here.