The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has vacated portions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Final Rules on Employer Wellness Programs. Though the court’s vacatur is not effective until January 1, 2019, employers should anticipate that the EEOC will issue new interim or permanent rules much sooner.
On May 17, 2016, the EEOC issued its Final Rules on Employer Wellness Programs to guide employers on providing financially incentivized wellness programs with up to 30 percent discounts to employees in return for employees answering disability-related questions or taking medical examinations. The guidance was meant to help employers navigate health promotion and disease prevention programs and activities alongside Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of disability and restricts employers from obtaining medical information from applications and employees unless part of a voluntary health program.
The AARP brought suit on October 24, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the EEOC final rules by claiming that the rules provide further hardship to those employees that choose to exercise their right to keep their medical information private. On August 22, 2017, the court found that in its rules the EEOC failed to explain adequately its decision to construe the term “voluntary,” as it related to the incentivized wellness programs. The court, however, hesitated to vacate the rules at that time so as not to interrupt nationwide employment structures in the middle of the year.
The AARP filed a motion to alter or amend the court’s decision, and on December 20, 2017 the court granted the motion and vacated the challenged portions of the EEOC’s Final Rules, effective January 1, 2019. The court also directed the EEOC to come up with interim or new permanent rules that specifically rectify the “voluntary” issue.
Read the EEOC’s Final Rules:
Read the December 20, 2017 ruling:
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