Traditionally, "workplace wellness programs" are ostensibly voluntary initiatives that aim to goad employees into healthier lifestyles — say through diet, exercise and smoking cessation — by offering them a discount on their health insurance premiums or some other benefit.
In practice, the voluntary programs can shade into mandatory programs, while giving employers an otherwise illegal window into their workers’ medical histories. A bill now making its way through Congress would give employers an even stronger hand in forcing workers to give up their privacy.
The “Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act,” which sailed through the House Committee on Education and the Workforce last week on a 22-17 party-line vote with Republicans in the majority, is “an ugly piece of legislation,” warns IHPI member Nicholas Bagley, Law Professor at U-M. The measure, he reports, would “effectively allow businesses to require their employees to disclose lots of sensitive medical data, including their genetic information.”