EEOC: Vacating workplace wellness rules would cause turmoil for employers
- Following a Washington, D.C. district court judge's ruling that sent the troubled wellness rules back to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for second review, EEOC warned that vacating the rules would cause turmoil for employers and workers, the National Law Review reports. The agency argued that vacating the rules would force employers to change their already formulated 2018 healthcare insurance plans by Jan. 1.
- Judge John Bates didn't toss out the rules but, instead, sent them back to the EEOC for reconsideration. However, the agency maintains that it wouldn't be able to review the rules by year's end. The judge must now decide whether to toss out the rules or give the agency a chance to revise them.
- The wellness program regulations allow employers to encourage program participation through incentives. The AARP sued EEOC in October after the agency made rule changes, arguing the new rules with violated federal anti-discrimination laws by allowing employers access to workers' private health information.
EEOC makes an important point about the time employers need to adjust to fast and often extensive regulatory changes. A new survey by Future Workplace-Kronos Workforce Institute found that deregulation can cost employers $100,000 in compliance expenses. The Trump administration is overturning many, if not most, Obama-era rules. But it does so at a potentially great cost, especially to small businesses.
As for wellness regulation, a federal judge tossed out a preliminary injunction against the rule in January, following the AARP lawsuit. The rule allows employers to offer workers incentives worth as much as 30% of the cost of the plan to disclose pertinent health data. Blake is asking EEOC to explain why the wellness rule doesn't address compliance obligations to the extent necessary under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). In fact, the ADA drives some of the wellness rule.
In the meantime, employers will have to wait on Blake's decision either to extend the deadline the EEOC said it needs to review the wellness rules or entirely toss out the rule.