Wellness Incentives: Implications of EEOC v. AARP
It’s no secret that wellness programs must comply with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines; however, the case of AARP v. EEOC has been a challenge for HR professionals. The judge in the case vacated a previous ruling that employers can offer incentives equal to up to 30 percent of the total cost of employee-only coverage to encourage workers to voluntarily participate in wellness programs. While the ruling only applies to medical exams and certain health-risk assessments, it creates a compliance issue for benefits professionals who typically utilize medical exams, biometric testing and health assessments in their wellness programs.
Until the EEOC provides guidance, employers might consider the options below when planning wellness program modifications. Before making any changes, discuss viable options with your wellness provider and your organization’s legal counsel.
Add an alternative wellness option that does not require a biometric screening or ask health-related questions, i.e. education-oriented programs that earn an incentive equivalent to a biometric screening.
Reduce the reward associated with participation in the biometric screenings or risk assessments. There was agreement from AARP that some level of incentive was acceptable, however the EEOC has yet to define what the acceptable level may be.
Eliminate incentives within wellness programs until actual guidelines are created.
Modify wellness plans so that any incentives employees earn are only for non-biometric screening or risk-assessment programs.
The ruling and subsequent delay on EEOC guidelines should not be viewed as a deterrent to offering wellness programs but rather as an opportunity for employers to re-evaluate the reasons they offer wellness as a benefit. Whether you are looking to reduce healthcare costs, increase productivity, improve employee engagement or become an employer of choice, make sure your goals are clear and woven into a comprehensive strategy that can deliver your desired outcomes. We take this approach with all of our clients. Contact us if you would like more information.