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ACA vs. ADA: EEOC loses on wellness programs

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

The EEOC has lost its bid for a preliminary injunction that would have prevented a major employer from withholding funds from the Health Savings Accounts (HSA) of employees who refused to participate in a wellness program.

The case pits cost-control provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care reform law against ADA medical-testing provisions.

Recent case: Several Honeywell employees complained to the EEOC about the provisions of the company’s wellness program. Employees can participate in a high-deductible health plan that includes an HSA. Honeywell only deposits money into the HSAs of employees who participate in the wellness program, which educates employees about their health status and promotes healthy behavior.

Employees who give a blood sample and provide other information receive the HSA contribution and don’t have to pay a surcharge.

The EEOC asked for a temporary injunction to stop the program, arguing that under the ADA, the testing is an illegal, nonjob-related medical test. It said the penalties punish refusal to participate in an illegal test.

Honeywell claimed that the ACA clearly allows medical testing and authorizes penalties for those who refuse as part of its medical cost-reduction provisions.

The court denied the EEOC’s request for an injunction, concluding that it isn’t at all clear which law should prevail. Until that is settled, Honeywell can continue to penalize those who won’t participate and reward those who do. (EEOC v. Honeywell, No. 14-4517, DC MN, 2014)

Final note: Watch this case as it works its way through the system.

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