Developments for Employers that Sponsor Wellness Programs

McDermott Will & Emery

The ruling in Seff V. Broward County has helped to establish guidance as to what is permissible with respect to the design of wellness programs under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that Broward County’s wellness program fell within the ADA’s safe harbor provision.

Summary of Case

On April 11, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida found in favor of the defendant’s (Broward County) motion for summary judgment in Seff v. Broward County. The plaintiff, which is made up of a class of present and former employees of Broward County, brought suit against Broward County based on the design of its wellness program claiming it violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Beginning in June 2010, the wellness program imposed a $20 charge on each bi-weekly paycheck for each employee who participated in the group health plan and did not complete the wellness questionnaire (health risk assessment) and undergo biometric screening. Plaintiff Seff, a former employee who incurred the $20 charge filed a class action complaint against Broward County alleging that, by requiring employees to undergo a medical examination and making medical inquiries, Broward County was in violation of the ADA because the wellness program was not voluntary.

Broward County maintained that it did not violate the ADA since its actions were covered by the ADA’s safe harbor rules which permit bona fide benefit programs. The ADA safe harbor rules applicable in the case provide that a bona fide benefit program shall not be construed to prohibit or restrict ...

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