Final Wellness Regulations Take Effect Despite Legal Challenge

January 09, 2017

The Final Rules issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on wellness programs have withstood an initial legal challenge from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). In October 2016, AARP filed suit challenging the final rules and seeking a temporary injunction to prevent the rules from taking effect on January 1, 2017. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia denied AARP’s motion for preliminary injunction, and thus the Final Rules have gone into effect as scheduled.

On May 16, 2016, the EEOC issued Final Rules that, among other things, clarified how certain terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) apply to wellness programs. Specifically, the Final Rules explain how a wellness program may be “reasonably designed” to promote health or prevent disease, an EEOC requirement for wellness programs. The Final Rules also define how an employee can be deemed a “voluntary” participant in a wellness program. These terms had been left undefined prior to the adoption of the Final Rules, and had caused consternation for employers seeking to comply with the EEOC wellness program rules. In addition, the Final Rules allow employers to provide incentives up to 30 percent of self—only coverage for employees participating in a wellness program that includes a disability related inquiry or medical examination (including a tobacco related screening).