Health-risk assessments (HRAs) and biometric screenings have been the cornerstones of many employer wellness programs for years. But the author of GINA is urging the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to make some rules that could change all that.
As the New York Times recently reported, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY) wrote a letter urging the EEOC to more closely investigate workplace wellness programs and issue rules that would prohibit employers from using wellness-related info to discriminate against employees.
Penn State’s ‘appalling’ impact
As the author of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), Slaughter is a major advocate of health privacy rights. But what spurred Slaughter to petition the EEOC in this case was a controversial wellness program Penn State University recently rolled out.
Regarding the PSU wellness plan, Slaughter said, “What happened at Penn State was appalling to me.”
Our sister website, HR Benefits Alert, previously reported on Penn State’s wellness plan, which was fairly in-depth and included a medical questionnaire that totaled 12 pages.
The plan was lambasted by critics everywhere — and controversial enough to spur Slaughter to directly petition the EEOC to make formal wellness program rules.
PSU’s wellness plan — titled “Take Care of Your Health” — was supposed to require workers to pay a $100 monthly penalty if they failed to complete the in-depth health questionnaires, and get annual physical exams and biometric screenings.
However, in the wake of harsh criticism, the university recently announced it would be dropping the wellness program penalty.
Even without the penalty, Slaughter still had a number of problems with PSU’s wellness program.
In the EEOC letter, she said it, “still raises concerns about the type of information that can be collected through wellness programs and the definition of ‘voluntary’ participation,” and added, “it is my strong hope that E.E.O.C. promptly drafts subregulatory guidance stopping this type of abuse and ensuring strong nondiscrimination protections for employees in wellness programs.”
This post originally appeared on HRBenefitsAlert.