Wellness tracking programs are increasingly under scrutiny by employee rights advocates, health care professionals and other policy makers. In yet another case that challenges the legality of the employee wellness program, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Honeywell International to stop the company from penalizing employees who refuse to undergo medical testing under the purported corporate wellness program. This is the third such case filed by the EEOC since August, but Honeywell is the largest corporation targeted so far.
Advocates for wellness programs say they can boost employee morale, ensure healthy habits among employees and reduce overall medical costs. While companies may have incentive to track the health of employees, critics point out they are invasive and could violate medical privacy laws. Despite the potential abuse of corporate wellness programs, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) actually promotes and encourages employee wellness tracking. Honeywell has been charged with penalizing employees up to $4,000 each through surcharges and other lost contributions for failing to participate. The employees can incur such losses if they or their spouses refuse to comply with the biometric testing.
Under the Honeywell corporate wellness tracking system, employees must undergo screening for blood-sugar levels, nicotine, waist circumference, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. According to the lawsuit, the testing was to occur the last week of October this year. The EEOC is the law agency that enforces federal labor laws and instances of discrimination. According to the EEOC, Honeywell’s employee testing program is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. The agency filed the lawsuit asking for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order to stop the company from imposing penalties.
Employees are protected under state and federal labor laws as well as additional laws that seek to prevent discrimination in the workforce. Despite the many laws in California and nationwide that aim to protect workers’ rights, many companies will continue to violate these laws and undermine the rights of their employees. Our Orange County employment lawyers are committed to protecting the rights of our clients, and will take aggressive and strategic action to hold employers liable for these violations. Victims of unlawful employee wellness tracking programs should consult with an experienced advocate to protect their rights under state and federal discrimination laws.
According to the lawsuit, Honeywell employees approximately 51,000 employees in the United States. Of the employees and spouses who were enrolled in the company health plan, 77 percent of those agreed to participate in the health program in 2012. This is up 36 percent since 2011, indicating that company wellness tracking programs are becoming more widely accepted. Honeywell alleges the EEOC is “woefully out of step” with the current healthcare market. While many companies claim they are monitoring health status to benefit employees, there are more egregious and potentially damaging issues for employees. Not only are they required to expose their personal health status, but they are penalized for refusing to undergo treatment.
Employment lawsuits can be filed with assistance from the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Orange County. Call 949.375.4734.
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