United States: The EEOC Issues Final Rules On Employer Wellness Programs

If you read one thing...

  • The EEOC has issued its final rules regarding how workplace wellness programs can comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The new rules take effect on January 1, 2017 and apply to all wellness programs, regardless of whether the wellness program is offered through a group plan.
  • The final rules clarify that employers may offer limited incentives of up to 30 percent of healthcare coverage costs for employees or their spouses who participate in voluntary wellness programs that ask about their health history or include biometric screening for risk factors.
  • The final rules also clarify that certain wellness programs that are encouraged by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations do not implicate the ADA or GINA incentive limitations, such as smoking cessation programs or programs that offer incentives to attend nutrition or weight loss classes, or to exercise or walk.

On May 16, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued its final rules regarding how workplace wellness programs can comply with the ADA and GINA.

The ADA and GINA generally prohibit employers from inquiring about, obtaining or using employee medical and genetic information. There is an exception, however, for employer sponsored "voluntary health programs," commonly referred to as wellness programs. Many employers offer wellness programs to promote healthier lifestyles or to prevent disease. Participation in the programs sometimes requires employees or their family members to complete questionnaires about their health history or asks them to undergo biometric screening for risk factors, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol. Some programs offer coaching or classes to help employees attain specific health goals. Many wellness programs are also tied to health premium discounts or other incentives for employees who choose to participate or meet goals.

The final rules provide guidance on how wellness programs can comply with the ADA and GINA, and attempt to reconcile the ADA and GINA with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), as amended by the ACA, which governs wellness programs that are part of group health plans.

Under the new rules, a wellness program that collects medical or health information qualifies under the ADA and GINA as an allowable voluntary health program if it meets the following requirements:

  • The program must be "reasonably designed to promote health or prevent disease." This means the program must have a reasonable chance of improving health or preventing disease. For example, completing a questionnaire or undergoing a biometric screening for the purpose of alerting employees to health risks would meet the standard, as would employers gathering this information in the aggregate to design or offer health programs tailored to the needs of its employees. Asking employees to provide medical information without providing any feedback about risk factors or without using aggregate information to design a program would not meet the standard. Nor would programs that exist merely to shift costs from the employer to the employee or to predict future health costs.
  • The program must be "voluntary." This means participation in the program must be optional, and not conditioned on access to healthcare coverage. Employers also may not take any adverse action against employees who chose not to answer disability-related questions.
  • Employers must provide notice for the program to be considered voluntary. The notice must clearly explain what medical information will be obtained, how it will be used, who will receive it, restrictions on disclosure and the methods that will be used to prevent improper disclosure.
  • Incentives are limited to 30 percent of coverage costs. Incentives, whether in the form of financial awards or discounts, time-off awards, prizes or other items of value, generally may not exceed 30 percent of the total cost of self-only coverage (including both the employee's and employer's contribution).
  • Confidentiality safeguards must be implemented. These confidentiality safeguards are consistent with HIPAA and also include ensuring that employers only receive de-identified aggregated information from the program, and prohibit conditioning participation in the program to allowing for the sale, transfer or distribution of health information.
  • The program must be accessible to persons with disabilities. This means that reasonable accommodations must be provided, absent undue hardship, that enable persons with disabilities to earn any incentive being offered. This requirement applies even if there is no medical inquiry. For example, sign interpretation would need to be provided for a nutrition class tied to the incentive.

The final rules also clarify that certain wellness programs that are encouraged by ACA regulations do not implicate the ADA or GINA incentive limitations. For example, a smoking cessation program that merely asks whether or not an employee uses tobacco makes no medical inquiry and, therefore, employers may offer incentives as high as 50 percent, as allowed by the ACA regulations. Likewise, programs that offer incentives to attend nutrition or weight loss classes, or to exercise or walk, are subject to the ACA incentive limits, but not the ADA or GINA limits.

The final rules apply to all wellness programs, regardless of whether the wellness program is offered through a group plan or not. The final rule also clarifies that the ADA safe harbor provision for insurance plans does not apply to wellness programs that include disability-related inquires.

The new rules do not go into effect until 2017, giving companies some lead time to ensure their wellness programs are in compliance. The final rules can be found in the Federal Register here (ADA) and here (GINA) as well as the question-and-answer documents here (ADA) and here (GINA).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Brown Smith Wallace
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Brown Smith Wallace
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions