EEOC Sues Honeywell over Employee "Wellness Program"

[Content Note: Disablism; fat hatred.]

This is very good news:
Federal officials are challenging new benefit rules at Honeywell Inc. that create monetary penalties unless employees and spouses take medical tests.

A lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in response to complaints from two Minnesota employees sets up a potential court case over how far employers can go to shift health costs and influence worker behavior.

The agency said in the suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, that new health screening and penalties at Honeywell violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

"Employees will be penalized if they or their spouses do not take the biometric tests," the complaint said.

In response to the suit, Honeywell said its screening ­program is designed to encourage employees to live more healthfully and thereby create lower health care costs for themselves and the company. The company said the program complies with health care-related laws, including the Affordable Care Act.

The EEOC has requested a temporary injunction to stop the employee testing, which was scheduled to begin last week at various sites across the country.

...The suit is the third one in three months that the EEOC has filed accusing companies of setting up "involuntary" employee medical or wellness programs, said Laurie Vasichek, an attorney for the agency. Honeywell's tests and threatened penalties go too far because they are not job-related and are not consistent with any business necessity, she said.

"The thing that is important about these cases is not that they are wellness or health programs, but that the company is requiring testing and asking disability questions when it's not job-related," Vasichek said. "They can only do that in ­situations where it's ­voluntary for the employee to answer."
It's really important that the EEOC is calling out that these "wellness programs" are ways of doing an end-run around illegal questions around disability.

Especially because there no laws protecting fat employees from discrimination. And if you think that isn't part of the objective, well: "The EEOC said that ­Honeywell's new program creates up to $4,000 in penalties for employees unless they and their spouses take blood and medical tests that can identify smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and other health problems." One of these things is not like the other!

"Obesity" is not in and of itself a "health problem." And yet companies are routinely trying to find ways to penalize employees if they don't lose weight. Irrespective of their ability to do so.

People with disabilities and/or fat people are being illegally/unfairly targeted by "wellness programs." And not just financially penalized by them, but stigmatized. And expected to change things about their bodies ("influence worker behavior") that they may not be able to change.

I desperately hope the EEOC stays all over this one.

[H/T to Eastsidekate.]

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