Workplace Wellness Programs and The Interplay Between The ADA’s Prohibition On Disability-Related Inquiries and Insurance Safe Harbor

Che, Erica

The EEOC’s May 2016 final rule on employer wellness programs, along with two recent rulings by courts in Wisconsin, reflects the growing pains of a legal doctrine developing under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) regarding the application of the statute’s provisions to wellness program requirements. This Note evaluates how ADA provisions should apply to two common components of workplace wellness programs, health risk assessments and biometric screenings, and the use of incentives by employers to increase employee participation in such programs. In particular, this Note examines the interplay of the ADA’s restrictions on medical examinations and inquiries, its exception for examinations and inquiries that are part of “voluntary” employee health programs, and its insurance “safe harbor” provision. After outlining inconsistencies in the application of the ADA’s provisions in recent “safe harbor” cases, this Note aims to clarify the debate and build on the EEOC’s new regulatory guidance by providing a comprehensive analysis of the ADA’s limits on health screening programs.


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November 20, 2019