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.