AARP, the nation’s premier senior advocacy group, has filed action in the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., alleging that the company wellness program rule issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which allows monetary incentives of up to 30 percent of the cost of a health insurance policy for employees to reveal personal health information, not only is invasive of personal privacy but also can lead to an atmosphere of coercion.
The lawsuit alleges that by offering such deep discounts to “self-only” health coverage, wellness programs can become coercive, and further can lead to workplace discrimination based on sensitive health data obtained through the wellness program by biometric screening, health risk assessments and other means.
At particular risk, according to the AARP, are seniors at work who often possess “less-visible conditions and disabilities that are at risk of disclosure through compulsory medical inquiries and exams,” including conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
“The EEOC’s new rules enable employers to use wellness programs to pressure individuals to reveal their health information using heavy financial penalties,” said Dara Smith, a lawyer with the AARP Foundation. “These coercive programs invade workers’ privacy and leave workers vulnerable to employment discrimination based on disability or genetic information.”
The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the rule from taking effect in 2017.