Editor’s note: This week, EBN runs a special series on what benefit decision-makers can expect in 2015 in five key areas: health care, retirement, wellness, voluntary and attraction and retention. Join the discussion on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #2015outlook.

2015 could prove to be a trying year for employer-sponsored wellness programs, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filing suit in recent months against at least three employers — the largest one being Honeywell — over their wellness programs.

In the case of Honeywell, the EEOC claims the company’s wellness program violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act by imposing penalties on employees who decline to participate in Honeywell’s biometric screening program.

Honeywell, for its part, called the lawsuit “frivolous” and says the EEOC “is unfamiliar with the details of our wellness programs and woefully out of step with the health care marketplace and with the core intent of the Affordable Care Act to provide expanded access and improved health care to all Americans.”

Also see: Health care benefits in 2015: What employers need to know

“There’s always been this cloud of uncertainty with respect to how the EEOC would view incentives, particularly as they are tied to medical information and improving on a specific health goal,” says the NBGH’s Wojcik. “I think the fact that the EEOC resorted to legal action rather than a more formal rule-making process with a chance for input, is unfortunate. … it’s a little early to tell how it’s going to play out but employers would like clarity and consistent messages from the government about the extent of support for employer-sponsored wellness programs, which was a big part of the ACA.”

Also see: Industry lauds EEOC court decision, wellness battle continues

Nevertheless, employers remain committed to wellness programs, with 93% of employers surveyed by the NBGH and Fidelity Investments indicating they plan to expand or maintain funding for their wellness-based incentive program over the next three to five years. And 44% said they plan to maintain or increase their investment in wellness programs, even if their company were to move away from direct involvement in employer-sponsored health coverage.

Also see: Retirement benefits in 2015: What employers need to know

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