Court Upholds Financial Penalties in Wellness Programs Under the ADA

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A recent case decided in Florida, Seff v. Broward County, held that an employer-sponsored wellness program which imposed financial penalties on employees who refused to complete a health assessment did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because the program was based on principles of insurance and risk management. This decision is noteworthy because employers have been uncertain whether the ADA’s requirement that participation be “voluntary” permits employers to impose penalties for noncompliance.

The employer, Broward County, implemented a wellness program which imposed a $20 per paycheck health plan premium surcharge on employees who failed to complete a health questionnaire and biometric screening, which included a blood test to measure glucose and cholesterol levels. A former employee filed a class action complaint alleging that the wellness program violated the ADA because it imposed a penalty for failure to submit to a medical examination and respond to medical inquiries.

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