On March 20, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) announced its submission of a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) on employer-sponsored wellness plans to the White House Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) for review. This is the first step toward official EEOC regulations on the subject of wellness plans. Assuming the OMB provides its approval, the EEOC will next open the proposed rule up for public comment.
The NPRM focuses on the relationship between the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) with regard to wellness programs. Specifically, the proposed rule would amend the EEOC’s current ADA regulations to address the interplay between the ADA’s protections against disability discrimination and the financial incentives offered under the ACA for wellness programs provided through employer-sponsored group health plans.
Given the EEOC’s recent litigation challenging wellness programs under the ADA, this announcement comes as welcome news for many employers. In the absence of formal guidance, companies are left with the choice of either establishing or maintaining a wellness program but risking claims of disability discrimination, or discontinuing a program that is beneficial to both the employer and its employees.