Judge: Wellness programs can penalize non-participants
Wellness programs in the workplace, like the one New Jersey-based Honeywell is planning to implement next year, can penalize employees for not participating, according to a federal judge's decision, Business Insurance reported.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Honeywell for imposing a $500 fine on its Minnesota-based employees who don't undergo biometric screenings, which are required to participate in the company's wellness program.
Honeywell also plans to withhold up to $1,500 annually in company contributions to employees' health savings accounts if they refuse to undergo wellness screenings, which include blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol tests. Plus, Honeywell will charge as much as $2,000 in tobacco-related fees for some employees, BI noted.
"We are not seeking to stop testing and not seeking to stop the assessment of the smoking surcharge," EEOC attorney Laurie Vasicheck argued before the court, Bloomberg reported. "What they can't do is penalize employees who do not want to go through it."
But the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled against the EEOC's request for a temporary block on the non-participation penalties.
Honeywell supported the decision. "Biometric information--which is never seen by Honeywell or Honeywell personnel--helps all employees make better decisions and we're proud to provide our employees with the opportunity to lead healthier lifestyles," the company said, according to Reuters.
The company's wellness program penalties could be an attempt to boost participation, especially since many employees often don't sign up for the employer-based programs. Indeed, 85 percent of large U.S. employers currently offer a wellness program, but just 40 percent of employees who know about the program actually participate in it, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.