The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is seeking an injunction against Honeywell, Inc. over their health screening policy that requires medical testing for employees and spouses. The EEOC contends that the penalties make the testing involuntary and therefore violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
The testing screens workers for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood-sugar levels, waist circumference and nicotine. Employees who fail to complete the testing are subject to monetary fines and lost contributions to health plans of up to $4,000.
According to Honeywell, the policy promotes employee wellbeing and reduces healthcare premiums for healthy employees.
“We don’t believe it’s fair to the employees who do work to lead healthier lifestyles to subsidize the healthcare premiums for those who do not.”
Honeywell is a Fortune 100 company manufacturing technology in the aerospace, oil and gas, and facilities control markets. They employ approximately 132,000 employees worldwide and 51,000 in the U.S.
Honeywell vs. the EEOC
The EEOC’s request for a restraining order and injunction are specifically aimed at stopping the imposition of penalties. The EEOC is not attempting to block Honeywell from pursuing voluntary screenings.
“Under the ADA, medical testing of this nature has to be voluntary. The employer cannot require it or penalize employees who decide not to go through with it. GINA prohibits employers from offering inducements to obtain family medical history, which would include the medical information that Honeywell seeks from its employees’ spouses.”
Honeywell, however, stands behind their policy stating:
“The Chicago EEOC office 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… Honeywell’s wellness plan incentives are in strict compliance with both HIPAA and the ACA’s guidelines, which were designed by Congress to encourage healthier lifestyles while helping to control healthcare costs. 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 EEOC broached the subject of company wellness programs in a May 8, 2013 Commission meeting, Commissioner Constance Barker stated that:
“Every wellness program…that any company offers has to provide equal access to every employee who can reasonably be accommodated…and just [as] importantly, that there be adjustment of standards for any sort of rewards that may be set so that every person who is disabled under the ADA has an equal opportunity to access those rewards.”
The Role of the EEOC
The EEOC enforces federal antidiscrimination laws like the ADA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, and GINA. They investigate charges of discrimination against employers and have the authority to file lawsuits “to protect the rights of individuals and the interests of the public.”
Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA bans discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of life – employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. To be protected under the ADA an individual must have a physical or mental ailment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
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