Legal Issues and Workplace Wellness Programs

bigstock Young People group of women 40771600 300x200 - Legal Issues and Workplace Wellness ProgramsWorkplace wellness programs are benefits that employers offer voluntarily or mandatorily to their employees to promote wellness and fitness.  Employees benefit from these programs that encourage employees to quit their unhealthy habits such as drinking and smoking and take up exercise.

The benefits of the workplace wellness programs can be helpful for both the employees and employers, if legally implemented. Employees benefit by becoming healthier; thus, reducing the risk of having more serious health problems. As a result, employers will pay lower costs for health insurance. Employers can also receive larger profits because of the increased productivity of their employees.

There are two types of wellness programs. The first one is voluntary. This program’s implementation is at the employee’s discretion to participate or not. Usually, there are rewards and incentives given to the employees who will participate. The second is mandatory. This requires the employees to undergo the wellness program. Mandatory wellness programs often penalize employees who will not participate.

Although both the employers and employees benefit on the wellness programs, legal issues may still arise. The implementation of the workplace wellness programs must comply with the state and federal law. These laws or acts are Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA), American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) requires the employers to keep the medical records of their employees. It is also their responsibility to keep their employees’ medical information private, only to use it in a legal way. Employees benefit from this because it allows equal opportunities and incentives for everyone who will participate in the wellness program.

Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) gives the employees the right not to disclose their genetic information. An employer must not request or require his employee to disclose such information. Medical family history is also included in the said information. Because of this, the employees are eligible to undergo the wellness program of their organization. They also have the right to receive the proper amount of insurance premium without disclosing their genetic information or family medical history.

American with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits the employers to ask their employees on their disabilities. The disabled employees benefit from this because they still have the right to participate in a wellness program voluntarily without any fear for punishment.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act or (ADEA) is applied to workers who are over 39 years old. This act does not permit the employers to discriminate their workers based on age. Every wellness program must be flexible on age and health conditions of their employees.

It is recommended for employers, who want to establish a wellness program, to hire an experienced professional who will guide them. Employees should understand the legalities involved in the wellness programs implemented in their workplace.

Contact us with any questions you might have on workplace wellness or other employee benefits.