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Employer requiring wellness program participation prevails over EEOC

Employer requiring wellness program participation prevails over EEOC

In an employer victory, a federal District Court in Wisconsin has ruled against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and held that a plastic manufacturer's policy of requiring employees to participate in its wellness program to be eligible for coverage in its group health insurance plan does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Judge Barbara B. Crabb, of U.S. District Court in Madison, Wisconsin, held in her Dec. 31 ruling in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Flambeau Inc. that the Baraboo, Wisconsin-based firm's policy was protected under the ADA's safe harbor provision in requiring employees to complete health risk assessments and biometric screenings to be eligible for health coverage.

“I conclude that the protection set forth in the ADA's safe harbor enable employers to design insurance benefit plans that require otherwise prohibited medical examinations as a condition of enrollment,” said Judge Crabb in her ruling granting Flambeau summary judgment dismissing the case.

An EEOC spokeswoman said in a statement the agency is reviewing the decision and considering its options.

“Employers can celebrate this ruling, but cautiously,” said Richard R. Meneghello, a partner with Fisher & Phillips L.L.P. in Portland, Oregon, in observing it only applies to Wisconsin employers.

However, he added, “It's good news because it's one of the first shots to be fired in this battle,” and although he anticipates the EEOC will appeal the ruling, “it's always good to get a win at this stage.”

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