The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission posted a sample notice on its website this week to help employers comply with new wellness rules under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

[Image credit: Department of Justice]
EEOC Commissioner Jenny R. Yang
[Image credit: Department of Justice]

The rule aims to prevent discrimination against employees with health issues working at companies with wellness programs. While wellness programs have gained popularity as a way for employers to reduce healthcare costs, there has also been fear that the programs could infringe on workers’ privacy and lead to negative consequences for those who opt out or have medical conditions.

Employers will have to ensure that employees receive a notice like the one posted by the EEOC informing them of what data will be collected for the program, how it will be used, and who will see it. The programs must keep medical information private and state in the notice how this confidentiality will be kept. Even if the wellness program provides its own notice, employers must make sure that each worker has seen it.

Wellness programs that seek to collect information about employees’ medical conditions or require medical examinations must be designed to promote health and prevent disease, according to the rule.

Employers can still provide incentives for program participants, though they must be limited and based on a percentage of the cost of self-only health insurance coverage. But there cannot be negative repercussions – such as denying or limiting health coverage – for those who opt out of the wellness program.

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