LEGAL: New EEOC rules allow employee incentives for wellness plans

On Jan. 1, new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules took effect, allowing employers to offer employees incentives to participate in wellness programs.

The AARP had sued to block the rules. It contended that the rules permit employers to compel employees to surrender private health and genetic information that the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) and GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008) generally protect from involuntary disclosure. The EEOC rules provide that employers may offer workers up to 30 percent of the cost of self-only health insurance for participation in wellness programs that include health risk assessments or tests that can divulge disabilities or genetic data.

The rules contemplate that these financial inducements are “incentives” and not penalties against workers who refuse to give out their private health and genetic information. On Dec. 29, a federal district court in Washington refused to enjoin the implementation of these rules (AARP v. EEOC, No. 16-2113 (12/29/ 16).