by Stephen Mills
Originally published: April 27, 2017
A settlement reached by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and an employer over whether worker participation in a worksite health screening was "voluntary" is a warning signal not to go too far in pressing employees to participate in wellness-promoting initiatives. But conflicting federal rules and court decisions continue to muddy the compliance waters for employee wellness programs.
The EEOC's April 5 settlement with Orion Energy Systems, a Manitowoc, Wis.-based producer of energy-efficient lighting platforms, ends the agency's litigation against the company. The EEOC had charged Orion with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), among other allegations. The suit contended that Orion's wellness program required medical examinations and made disability-related inquiries in violation of the ADA's employee protections.
Wendy Schobert was an Orion employee who declined to participate in the company's wellness program. Orion subsequently required her to pay the entire premium for her employee health benefits and, shortly thereafter, fired her.