In this article, Garrett Fenton discusses a recently proposed rule by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) designed to provide guidance to employers on the use of incentives to encourage participation in wellness programs. This proposal is the first for employers in this area and outlines where they can provide financial rewards for wellness while remaining compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC's proposal represents the first real attempt at providing direction for employers in this area, said Fenton, who predicts the proposed regulations will eventually become law. "There really wasn't any guidance before this, so [the proposed rule] should generally be well-received by employers," he said. "This is all crystal ball-gazing, but I think they will be finalized at some point. The bigger question is whether they will be finalized in their current form."
Once the rules are final, Fenton said human resources and benefits professionals should take note of the differences between existing Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and ACA wellness rules and the new incentives rule that may be coming. "They tried to marry them, but there are still discrepancies," he said. "Typically, there's no one individual or department that owns every aspect of a wellness program. And there can’t be, really. So there needs to be communication between HR, the legal team and the tax department, for example. Make sure everyone is vetting your wellness program -- as innocuous as it may seem -- for potential ADA and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) issues."