MILWAUKEE (Legal Newsline) – The U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that a federal court has ruled
in its favor for a disability discrimination case involving wellness programs
filed against Orion Energy Systems.
In the Orion lawsuit, EEOC alleged the company required
employee Wendy Schobert to submit to medical testing as part of a
wellness program or pay 100 percent of the premium for the employer-provided
health insurance. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from
forcing involuntary medical exams upon employees. In response, Orion argued
that the program was voluntary and that it was also a protected program under “insurance
The court found that the plan was not protected by “insurance
safe harbor” but was voluntary and therefore legal. Because Schobert
was allegedly fired for her failure to participate in the wellness plan, the
next step in the case will be a retaliation trial.
"Although we disagree with the court's holding that
participation in the wellness plan here was voluntary, we are pleased with the
court's solid reasoning that the safe harbor concept does not apply here,"
said John Hendrickson, the regional attorney for EEOC's Chicago District
Office. "It establishes that there is no easy out for employers from ADA
scrutiny. They must make sure that their plans comply with that law."