[hr class=”shadow”]

[gap height=”20″]

With any new legal process there are challenges and President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act isn’t exempt. A bigger question I believe is how we treat employees and if you use a wellness program against your employees is it really a wellness program.

[gap height=”20″]

Recently Honeywell International Inc. won its right to continue the implementation of its workplace wellness screening program after winning the landmark case brought to court by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s.

[gap height=”10″]

U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery stopped the request to block the company from assessing employees and imposing health insurance-related surcharges.

[gap height=”10″]

The Honeywell program asks employees and spouses to participate in biometric screening which tests for cholesterol levels and assesses body mass index.

[gap height=”10″]

According to the EEOC’s complaint employees can lose up to $1,500 in contributions to their health savings accounts and be penalized as much as $2,000 for tobacco use. Employees who do not participate are presumed to use tobacco.

[gap height=”10″]

“There’s no requirement that employees partake in the biometric screening program and those who opt out face no risk of dismissal” stated Michael Burkhardt the Honeywell attorney. According to Burkhardt 77% of employees participated in 2013.

[gap height=”10″]

Interestingly it appears that Honeywell use participation as their key metric rather than outcomes. Short term financially this may work but it would be interesting to see if employee retention suffers, if morale is lost and if employee productivity reduces over the long term.

[gap height=”10″]

The intention of a workplace wellness program should be to help, support and aid employees in becoming healthier humans. As a consequence of a longer term view the metrics around the employees such as health and productivity should improve over a reasonable time period for example a five year period.

[gap height=”10″]

Honeywell may well show reduced or maintained costs on an annual basis but this approach doesn’t take a long term view. Rather the opposite, a rash fight fire with fire approach that penalizes what is arguably their most valuable resource, their employees.

[gap height=”10″]

Can Honeywell truly be vilified for pushing the boundaries and if they wish to treat their employees in such a fashion and should the law permit this. Their actions raise interesting questions surrounding the Americans with disabilities act and federal law prohibiting discrimination based on genetic information.

[gap height=”10″]

Not only are they penalizing employees but one could question whether this could affect an employee’s long term possibilities in the jobs market as well as their spouses. Who retains this information and can the sample be used in future analysis against the employee.

[gap height=”10″]

Additionally and more worryingly is the perception created by such a program of a company cost saving pushed over onto employees. It’s not a pay cut but it may as well be. In the eyes of these employees there is little to be gained by participating in workplace wellness which is a 100% for the employer and against the employee.

[gap height=”10″]

If a company goes against their employees is there something wrong with their company culture or are they simply exercising their right to maintain competitive margins. Over the coming months there will be many challenges, this case is an edge case and not being perpetrated by companies on mass. Thankfully most companies take a long term view of profitability and ultimately employees are a part in that picture, it pays to keep them healthy.

[hr class=”shadow”]
[gap height=”20″]
BACK TO BLOG HOME