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Federal Judge Rejects EEOC's Attempt to Block Honeywell's Wellness Program

    Client Alerts
  • November 07, 2014

Last week, EmployNews reported a lawsuit filed against Honeywell by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission challenging a new wellness program the agency alleged violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Non-Disclosure Act. On Monday, a federal district judge denied the EEOC’s motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the wellness program from taking effect.

In its motion, the EEOC contended that biometric screenings required under the policy violate the ADA because they are not job-related, and because they would result in disclosure of family medical history information prohibited under GINA. The agency claimed that the wellness program was not voluntary because of financial penalties imposed for failure to participate.

Honeywell countered that the testing was specifically permitted under the Affordable Care Act and HIPAA, describing the EEOC’s action as frivolous. The federal judge concluded that the EEOC had not upheld its burden to stop the program. While not deciding on the merits of the underlying claim, she stated that participants could be repaid wellness-related penalties if the EEOC prevails at trial.

While this decision does not come close to ending this litigation, the denial indicates that the EEOC will have an uphill battle in proving that the penalties imposed are so harmful to medical plan participants that they overcome explicit exceptions for company-sponsored wellness programs contained in federal law. A wide range of employers use incentives and penalties to encourage employees to participate in such programs, and an EEOC victory against Honeywell could result in many employers curtailing wellness efforts.