Employment Law Report

The AARP’s Position on EEOC Wellness Program Rules

insurance_photoBy Amanda Warford Edge

While the focus in the Bluegrass state over the past couple of weeks has been on horses and bourbon, a lobbying group for older Americans — the AARP — has asked a federal judge in Washington, D.C. to rule that the EEOC’s new guidelines for employee wellness programs are illogical and arbitrary.  According to the AARP, the guidelines allow companies to violate workers’ medical privacy rights.  The AARP filed its summary judgment motion on Friday, April 28.  The lawsuit was initially filed in October 2016.  Wellness programs, of course, include programs where an employer provides incentives for workers to quit smoking, lose weight or undergo preventative health screenings, among other things.  Workers who participate in such programs are usually asked by employers to provide certain confidential medical information.

Previously, the EEOC had maintained that any financial incentive rendered wellness programs involuntary.  In adopting new guidelines last year, the EEOC ruled that employers can offer work incentives worth up to 30 percent of the cost of their cheapest individual health insurance plans (or 60 percent for couples) to participate in wellness programs without violating federal anti-discrimination laws.  The AARP says that these guidelines, which allow companies to charge workers higher insurance premiums if they opt out of wellness programs, have a disproportionate impact on people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions.  According to the AARP, the 30 percent figure is arbitrary and merely the result of a political compromise.

The AARP’s summary judgment motion will now be briefed by the parties, and a ruling will follow thereafter.  The Court will also consider the EEOC’s motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the AARP does not have standing to sue because it is more of a subscription service, like Netflix, than a traditional membership organization.  The case is AARP v. EEOC, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 16-CV-2113.