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You only have good intentions for setting up a wellness program within your organization. Aside from genuinely wanting happier, healthier employees, you know that fostering healthy habits amongst your employees can actually increase productivity and revenue for your employer. However, if you aren’t careful when setting these initiatives up, you might be inviting legal trouble.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has raised lawsuits against three separate American businesses this past year with regards to each organization’s respective wellness programs. While each case is individual, all three companies were accused in the suit of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

The three companies were called into question by the EEOC for requiring biometric testing, or medical records and documentation as part of the wellness program. According to the EEOC, requiring this type of testing no related to job function is discriminatory and a violation of ADA and GINA.

These legal actions are especially confusing considering the benefits and encouragement organizations have received to offer incentive programs through the Affordable Care Act. On one hand, the government asks organizations to invest in wellness programs, while on the other they punish those organizations without first clearly defining what constitutes a “good program.”

So what should you, the HCM professional in charge of the company wellness initiative, do to avoid that scary lawsuit? First, understand where the highest chances for risk are within your program; in most cases, it will be in incentivizing participation and in biometric testing. Second, learn how to mitigate that risk – start with clear internal communications to employees about the program, and focus on healthy alternatives to offer participants should they balk at a more rigid process.

Hopefully, these legal proceedings will produce a better understanding of what government agencies are looking for in a wellness program. Until then, organizations need to be aware of the many laws that govern medical wellness and the workplace – including HIPPA, ACA, ADA, and GINA, and what risks their specific program might have.

Interested in creating your own wellness program? Follow the steps on this checklist to launch your own wellness initiative – successfully!

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