Broward’s wellness program survives ADA court challenge

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in Employee Benefits Program,Employment Law,Human Resources

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit challenging Broward County’s employee wellness program, which came under legal challenge after the county started charging $20 per paycheck to employees who refused to participate.

The program was part of the county’s health benefit plan. Only those enrolled in the plan were allowed to participate—and only they were “incentivized” by the threat of losing money if they refused to.

Former county employee Bradley Seff filed the class-action lawsuit against the county, alleging it violated the ADA by forcing employees to undergo medical tests. The wellness program consisted of a questionnaire and health screening that included providing a blood sample. A county health care administrator performed all tests and kept the results confidential. The county only received aggregate data, not individual test results.

Seff alleged the wellness program was a way to get around the ADA’s prohibition on medical testing. The court found that the program fell with­­­in the ADA’s “safe harbor” that allows employers to administer “a bona fide benefit plan … based on underwriting risks, classifying risks, or administering such risks that are based on or not inconsistent with State law.”

The court noted that the ADA allows for voluntary wellness programs—although voluntariness in this case seems subjective.

Note: If you operate a wellness program or are thinking of starting one, consult with your attorney to ensure the program complies with the ADA and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Find more information on the EEOC’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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