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Oct 03, 2011

EEOC discussion letter rehashes GINA rules on wellness incentives

Employee Benefits 

In a recently issued informal discussion letter, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reiterated that the federal Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits employers from using financial incentives to induce employees to provide genetic information as part of a wellness program. However, if an employee voluntarily provides genetic information indicating that he or she may have an increased risk of developing a health condition in the future, the information may be used to direct that employee into an appropriate disease management program (ADA & GINA: Incentives for Workplace Wellness Programs, June 24, 2011). And, if that disease management program offers financial incentives for participation, or for achieving certain outcomes, the EEOC reminds employers that the program must also be open to employees who currently have that health condition, or whose lifestyle choices put them at increased risk of developing the condition.  The EEOC’s GINA regulations provide this example of a wellness incentive that complies with GINA: “Employees who voluntarily disclose a family medical history of diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure on a health risk assessment [that otherwise meets the requirements of GINA] and employees who have a current diagnosis of one or more of these conditions are offered $150 to participate in a wellness program designed to encourage weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.” For more information on the legal issues surrounding wellness programs, see Vigilant’s Legal Guide, “Workplace Wellness Programs” (4417).

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