Health Law

AARP suit claims wellness-program regulations allow employers to coerce participation

  • Print.

medical folder.

An AARP lawsuit claims new regulations governing workplace wellness programs violate laws barring genetic and disability discrimination.

The AARP suit (PDF) filed on Monday challenges the rules issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, report the National Law Journal (sub. req.) and the New York Times. The group is seeking a preliminary injunction to block the rules, which are scheduled to take effect in 2017.

According to the EEOC, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act generally bar employers from requesting workers’ medical data, except for strictly voluntary wellness programs. Such programs often collect health information through biometric testing or medical questionnaires.

The new EEOC rules provide that programs are voluntary if health coverage is not conditioned on participation, and if a penalty for nonparticipation is no more than 30 percent of an employee’s health insurance premium. The AARP claims the 30 percent rule allows a penalty so substantial as to make an employee’s participation involuntary.

Dara Smith, one of the AARP lawyers, told the National Law Journal there is a danger to older workers when health data is disclosed to employers. Older workers are more likely to have problems such as high blood press, diabetes and depression, Smith said. Employers might respond by laying off older workers to save on health insurance costs, Smith said.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.