Recently proposed legislation aiming to provide legal certainty for business owners offering wellness programs is garnering widespread support from industry groups around the country.

In the wake of several lawsuits filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, reprimanding company wellness programs for going too far, the legislation seeks to clarify the law relating to “nondiscriminatory employer wellness programs.”

The bill, (H.R. 1189), proposes that a workplace wellness program will not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 or titles I or II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 as long as the wellness program complies with Section 2705(j) of the Public Health Service Act.

Also see: Employees want wellness incentives, despite regulatory uncertainty

The EEOC also recently announced it has begun the regulatory process to release its long-awaited rules on the interplay of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Affordable Care Act with regard to employer wellness programs.

H.R. 1189, meanwhile, states that offering incentives for the “collection of information about the manifested disease or disorder of a family member” for use in another family member's workplace wellness program does not violate GINA.

“Employee wellness programs not only help control the cost of health insurance but they also promote healthy lifestyles,” said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee when introducing the bill last month.  “Remarkably, executive overreach by the EEOC is actually punishing employers for offering wellness plans. Congress must take action to rein in this agency and provide the certainty necessary for more Americans to enjoy the benefits of these innovative health programs.”

Also see: Is your wellness program on the right side of the law?

The National Business Group on Health has voiced support for the bill, lauding lawmaker’s efforts in providing clearer direction for employer wellness programs.

“We applaud your leadership to align government policy and provide legal clarity to support employers’ wellness programs and financial incentives that reward healthy lifestyles,” said Brian Marcotte, NBGH president and CEO. “Your proposed legislation would clear up this confusion for employers and the employees who value these programs and aligns the federal government’s policy to consistently support wellness programs.”

“To maintain global competitiveness and help achieve good health in our communities, American companies must encourage healthy behavior with every tool in our toolkit,” added James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council. “In other words, a healthy workforce is a productive workforce, and a productive workforce makes for a healthier American economy.”

Also see: Cadillac tax, wellness program clarity top employer priorities

A similar bill was also introduced in the Senate (S. 620) by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.). If signed into law, the bill would be retroactive to March 23, 2010.

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