BREAKING: EEOC seeks court order to halt Honeywell's biometric testing

UPDATED 10/29/14 and 11/7/14 (see below). Thanks to Kate Bischoff of The Employment Law Navigator for bringing this to our attention.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a petition yesterday in federal court in Minnesota to stop Honeywell International, Inc., from requiring that employees (and spouses, if the employees have family health insurance coverage) either get biometric testing, or face the loss of employer contributions to Health Savings Accounts and incur other charges.

The EEOC is seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop the testing, which was scheduled to take place October 22 through the end of this week.

According to the EEOC's petition, the testing requires a blood draw, and blood samples will be checked for cholesterol and glucose. Participants' blood pressure and waist circumference will also be measured, and they'll be checked for use of nicotine and cotitine. The EEOC contends that the testing violates the Americans with Disabilities Act as applied to employees, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act as applied to employees'  spouses.

According to the EEOC, the penalties for non-participation can cost as much as $4,000 per employee for the 2015 plan year.

UPDATE (10/29/14): Honeywell has issued the following statement: 

The Chicago EEOC office is unfamiliar with the details of our wellness programs and woefully out of step with the healthcare marketplace and with the core intent of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, to provide expanded access and improved healthcare to all Americans. The incentives in our wellness programs are pro consumer and have delivered demonstrably better healthcare outcomes for employees and their families. The incentives we provide are specifically sanctioned by two separate Federal statutes - the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, and the ACA. Honeywell's wellness plan incentives are in strict compliance with both HIPAA and the ACA's guidelines, which were designed by Congress to encourage healthier lifestyles while helping to control healthcare costs. No Honeywell employee has ever been denied healthcare coverage or disciplined in any way as a result of their voluntary decision not to participate in our wellness programs. Biometric testing provides valuable private information to each employee about potentially life threatening issues. Honeywell wants its employees to be well informed about their health status not only because it promotes their wellbeing, but also because we don't believe it's fair to the employees who do work to lead healthier lifestyles to subsidize the healthcare premiums for those who do not. Biometric information will help all employees make healthier decisions. Over 60% of Honeywell biometrics participants have reduced at least one health risk, and encouraging more participation is the right thing to do. For employees with single coverage who voluntarily decide to take a biometric screening, their monthly premiums will be $125 lower than the employees who decide not to take a biometric screening. Biometric results are strictly confidential and not shared with the company. We're proud to provide employees with the opportunity to lead healthier lifestyles and are disappointed that the EEOC would take a position that is so contrary to a fundamental component of the President's health care plan, legislation passed by Congress, and the desire of all Americans to lead healthier lives.

(Thanks to Law360 and theflyonthewall.)

Updated again (11/7/14): The court has denied the EEOC's petition.

I've written about the EEOC's position on the "coercive" aspects of wellness programs here, here, here, here, here, and here. The latest will definitely be a case to watch.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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