Employers use wellness programd to encourage employees to be aware and in control of their health.

The implementation of wellness programs have come under fire from the Equal Employment Opportunity Comission in the last several months. Lawsuits filed by the EEOC claim wellness programs that require health risk assessments violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One of the claims raised involved Wisconsin based Flambeau, Inc., and the decision in the case stands in favor of the wellness program.

As laid out by the National Law Review, the manufacturing company mandates employees to complte a health risk assessment and biometric screening to be eligible for its health plan. If an employee does not complete the requirement, then the employee becomes responsible for the full premium in order to stay covered.

The EEOC alleged in the lawsuit that when an employee did not complete the assessment and biometric testing, Flambeau cancelled his medical insurance and shifted the responsibility of the entire premium cost to him.

The EEOC argued that the biometric testing and health risk assesment constituted “disability-related inquiries and medical examinations” that were not job-related and consistent with business necessity as defined te the ADA. The EEOC also argued the plan was not a “voluntary” plan and that Flambeau did not qualify for the “safe harbor” protections set forth by the ADA.

In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled Flambeau was not in the wrong in implementation if its voluntary company subsidized health insurance plan. The judge ruled Flambeau fell under the law’s “safe harbor” provisions because the mandatory health assessment and biometric testing were conditions for employees to voluntarily receive the insurance offered by the company.

This decision applies to wellness programs that are part of the employer’s benefit plan. How it applies to stand-alone or other wellness programs is not seen at this time.

The EEOC may seek out an appeal in the case.