NEWS RELEASE

November 3, 2014
NR 2014-20

For additional information:
Jason Hammersla
office 202-289-6700 / cell 202-422-4652

District court's denial of EEOC request to block wellness program a victory for employers, employees

Employers continue to await formal guidance

WASHINGTON, DC — "Today's ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota offers welcome relief for company sponsors of employee wellness programs," American Benefits Council President James A. Klein said.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) pursued a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Honeywell International Inc., alleging the company's wellness program violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) by imposing penalties on employees who decline participation in the company's biometric screening program.

"The district court's denial of the EEOC's request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction relied on a finding that the program does not pose 'irreparable harm' to participants," Klein said. "In fact, quite the contrary is true. Health screening is a way to get employees engaged in taking steps to improve their health and well-being," Klein noted.

"Like many other Council member companies, Honeywell has devoted substantial time and resources to the development and implementation of these programs. The recent legal action by the EEOC, particularly in the absence of formal guidance on wellness programs from the commission sends the wrong message," Klein said.

Wellness programs were promoted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) as a way to improve the health of American workers while lowering costs over the long term and validated by final regulations issued in 2013 by the U.S. departments of Treasury, Labor and Health and Human Services. In addition to the final regulations issued by these three federal agencies, the EEOC announced in its most recent semi-annual regulatory agenda that it intends to issue regulations later this year addressing wellness programs under the ADA and GINA. "Unfortunately, the EEOC decided to pursue litigation before issuing guidance on this matter," said Klein. "This is very frustrating for employers who care about the well-being of their employees and take seriously their compliance obligations. It is impossible for employers to abide by rules that do not exist."

The Council's long-term public policy strategic plan, A 2020 Vision, published in September 2014, calls on federal agencies promulgating regulations to proceed in a consistent, collaborative manner that supports participatory and outcomes-based wellness initiatives.

For more information on employer wellness programs, please contact Jason Hammersla, Council director of communications, at jhammersla@abcstaff.org or by phone at 202-289-6700 (office) or (202) 422-4652 (cell).

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The American Benefits Council is the national trade association for companies concerned about federal legislation and regulations affecting all aspects of the employee benefits system. The Council's members represent the entire spectrum of the private employee benefits community and either sponsor directly or administer retirement and health plans covering more than 100 million Americans.