It is very trendy these days for companies to encourage their employees to lead healthier lives in an effort to drive down the cost of health care premiums. Towards this end, many companies have instituted what are commonly known as "wellness programs", where they ask their employees exercise, give up smoking or generally lead healthier lifestyles. While these programs may be well intentioned, risks arise when the companies require their employees to disclose medical information about themselves as part of the wellness program and single out employees who don't feel comfortable complying with their requests.
A recent case filed in Wisconsin by the EEOC highlights the problems companies may face when employees decline to participate in a wellness program and thereafter allege that they were subjected to retaliation for their decision.
In EEOC v. Orion Energy Systems, 14-1019 (ED Wis. 2014), a former employee filed suit under the ADA alleging that she was treated differently and unlawfully fired because she declined to participate in the company's wellness program. In that case, EEOC has alleged the company program required employees to self disclose their medical history and have blood work performed on them. One employee declined to participate in the program. According to her, the company thereafter required her to pay the entire health care premium whereas employees who participated in the program did not, and later terminated her employment.
The lawsuit alleges that the company violated the ADA because the medical examination and inquiries were neither (a) job related or consistent with business necessity nor (b) voluntary since the employee was subjected to a financial penalty and later fired for not participating in the program.
If your company has put in place a wellness program and you feel uncomfortable about participating or disclosing information about your health, call the employment lawyers of Alan Lescht and Associates, P.C. for a consultation.