MINNEAPOLIS (Legal Newsline) — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced April 5 that Orion Energy Systems, a lighting company in Manitowoc, Wis., will settle allegations of retaliating against an employee who objected to the company’s wellness program.

"The EEOC supports employers and employees who want to explore ways to become healthier and to lower health care costs," said Julianne Bowman, director of the EEOC's Chicago District Office. "Wellness plans must comply with the ADA and its regulations, however, as well as other laws dealing with them. Under this consent decree, Orion Energy can explore ways to help its employees and itself."

According to the EEOC, the company instituted a wellness program that unlawfully forced employees to take medical examinations. The program also made disability-related inquiries. EEOC says, after employee Wendy Schobert declined to participate in the program, Orion shifted the cost of her health care from the company to Schobert. The company purportedly fired her a short time later.

"The EEOC has always maintained that wellness programs, done right, are a good thing. But they have to be voluntary,” said Greg Gochanour, regional attorney for the Chicago District Office. “Through this settlement, Orion Energy agrees that its future wellness programs will be done right."

Orion paid Schobert $100,000 and agreed to change its wellness program to better comply with federal laws.

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