Benefits and Compensation, HR Management & Compliance

EEOC Discussion Letter: Wellness Programs Must Accommodate Workers’ Disabilities

Employers must make accommodations to allow employees with disabilities to participate in their wellness programs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a recently released informal discussion letter.

The letter was written in response to an employer’s question about a special program for employees with diabetes. The employer wanted to waive its annual health insurance deductible for diabetic employees who met certain requirements.

Specifically, eligible employees would have to enroll in a disease management program or comply with a doctor’s exercise and medication recommendations to receive the incentive.

The commission said the program seemed compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act but reminded the employer that if an employee’s disability prevents him or her from participating, the employer must determine whether there are any reasonable accommodations that could allow the individual to participate, such as waiving certain rules. “If a wellness program is voluntary and an employer requires participants to meet certain health outcomes or to engage in certain activities in order to remain in the program or to earn rewards, it must provide reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship, to those individuals who are unable to meet the outcomes or engage in specific activities due to a disability,” EEOC wrote, citing 42 U.S.C. §12112(b)(5)(A).

The company also asked about requiring participants to have a medication possession ratio greater than 80 percent, which identifies the extent to which an individual is taking prescribed medication. “Assuming the program is voluntary and an employee is unable to meet the MPR because of a disability, the employer would need to provide a reasonable accommodation to allow the individual to participate in the plan and to earn whatever reward is available,” the commission responded.

EEOC letters are informal discussions and are not official opinions of the commission.

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