EEOC Challenge To Wellness Programs Becomes Political Issue

A leading group of chief executives is threatening political repercussions for the EEOC’s recent challenge to employer wellness programs.

The EEOC has several pending lawsuits challenging aspects of employer wellness programs. A federal court in Minnesota recently denied the EEOC’s motion for a preliminary injunction against surcharges imposed by Honeywell for employees who do not participate in certain biometric screenings. In denying the motion, the court cited a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that expressly states that “the absence of a surcharge” may be used as a reward in a wellness program.

Now, a group of chief executives are using political pressure to push back against the EEOC’s challenges to wellness programs. Business Roundtable, a group that represents chief executives of 200 large U.S. corporations, intends to meet with President Obama about the issue soon. According to CNBC, the group is upset that the EEOC is challenging wellness programs that are authorized by the ACA. Potential options that members of the Business Roundtable group have for increasing political pressure regarding this issue include: (i) supporting legal challenges to the ACA; (ii) making executives available for hearings about potential changes to or repeal of the ACA; or (iii) ceasing to offer employer-provided healthcare plans and, instead, provide subsidies for employees to buy healthcare elsewhere.

Takeaway: In addition to the legal problems with the EEOC’s challenge to wellness programs noted by the court in the recent Honeywell decision, political pressure from leading executives may provide another headwind for the EEOC’s new initiative.