what you should tell your employees about the EEOC proposed wellness ruling

May 15, 2015

in communication,incentives,outcomes-based wellness,wellness

in april the EEOC issued a proposed rule to provide employers with much-needed guidance on the use of incentives as part of their wellness strategy. the proposed rule seeks to clean up the confusion resulting from the EEOC’s filing of several lawsuits last year.

there are several sources for getting up to speed on the rule, including the rule itself and related documents issued by the EEOC. you can find these and more in my may newsletter. the rule is not final and is currently taking comments. but even though the rule’s not final, your employees are privy to the debate. the wall st journal, the los angeles times, and media outfits both big and small have covered it.

how they’re covering it might not relate to your particular approach, or it might raise challenges to your approach—challenges you’re currently reviewing to determine how to address. either way, you should be talking about the ruling with your employees and focusing on these three things:

1. what the ruling says. your employees should understand what the ruling says and why there was a need for it. they should know that there have been consistent questions about certain aspects of wellness program design and that the intention is to clarify what an employer wellness program is, how incentives can be used in conjunction with health plans, medical tests, and assessments, and what size these incentives can be.

2. what the ruling means to you and them. chances are, this ruling doesn’t impact what you’re doing. and that’s what you can tell your employees. what you can also tell your employees is what this ruling seeks to insure, such as assure employees they can’t be denied coverage under the company group health plans or group health plan benefits. nor can they be coerced, threatened, or in any other way discriminated against for not participating in the company wellness program.

3. what we’re doing about it—if anything. if you need to make a change because you require your employees to complete an assessment or biometrics testing to be eligible for a certain health plan, for example, you can advise them what will be changing about your design, when it will be changing, and what they’ll need to do or stop doing.

you might wonder why you should say anything if you, like most employers, don’t have to do any regrouping or retrofitting because of this ruling. it’s simple. “the biggest liar in this world is They Say,” the poet douglas malloch wrote. as we all know, what They Say is not typically accurate. communicating about the ruling allows you to straighten out any confusion about what you’re not doing. more important, it offers you the perfect opportunity to reemphasize what you are.

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