It’s said that bad things, such as celebrity deaths and high-profile federal lawsuits, tend to come in threes. Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) completed its trifecta by filing its third wellness-related lawsuit of 2014. 

Honeywell International, Inc., is the latest organization to find itself on the wrong end of an EEOC lawsuit.

In this suit, the EEOC is claiming the company’s wellness plan violates both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

For its part, Honeywell is calling the feds’ suit “frivolous” and “out of step.” But the harsh reality is this: Honeywell will have to spend a significant amount of time and money to fight this suit — or settle to make it go away.

$500 surcharge, HSA contributions withheld

Here’s some background on the wellness program — and the lawsuit it caused: According to the EEOC, a Minnesota branch of Honeywell rolled out a wellness program where non-participation in the program’s biometric screenings would net workers a $500 annual surcharge on their 2015 healthcare premiums.

The EEOC also alleges that Honeywell was planning on withholding its contributions to employees’ health-savings accounts (HSAs) — which are worth up $1,500 per year — and imposing a $1,000 tobacco surcharge against any employees who refused to take part in wellness screenings, which would test their blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and body mass. Altogether, employees could be hit with a  $4,000 penalty for not participating in the screenings.

Finally, the suit claims the Honeywell program included similar penalties for employees’ spouses who refused to participate in the biometric tests.

 ADA and GINA cited

Unlike the previous two lawsuits the EEOC filed against employers’ wellness plans, which focused solely on ADA violations, the suit against Honeywell alleges both the ADA and GINA had been violated.

Like the other cases, the EEOC is claiming the Honeywell’s policy isn’t truly “voluntary because it imposes a stiff penalty on employees who decline to participate.  The agency claims that the wellness program incentives violate the ADA because employees are penalized if they don’t don’t take part in medical examinations that are not job-related or consistent with business necessity.

The EEOC also claims that the program violated GINA because it provided an incentive to help Honeywell obtain the family medical history of the employees.

Specifically, according to the EEOC, by imposing a penalty on the employee if the his or her spouse does not participate in the program’s biometric screening — a screening which information related to conditions such as the spouse’s hypertension and diabetes — Honeywell’s program is providing a financial inducement to obtain genetic information (i.e, manifestation of disease in the spouse, related to the employee).

Honeywell is claiming its program complies with all federal regs and released the following statement in response to the EEOC’s lawsuit:

“(The EEOC) is unfamiliar with the details of our wellness programs and woefully out of step with the healthcare marketplace and with the core intent of the Affordable Care Act to provide expanded access and improved healthcare to all Americans. No Honeywell employee has ever been denied healthcare coverage or disciplined in any way as a result of their voluntary decision not to participate in our wellness programs.”

The company went on to clarify that the intent behind the wellness program was to reward employees who do participate in screening by lowering their premiums (as opposed to punishing those who don’t) by saying:

“For employees who voluntarily decide to take a biometric screening, their monthly premiums will be $125 lower than the employees who decide not to take a biometric screening. Biometric results are strictly confidential and not shared with the Company.”

We’ll keep you posted on this and other EEOC lawsuits.

Post Your Resume to 65+ Job Sites
Resume Service

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post