Can Workplace Wellness Go Too Far?
In recent years, much focus in many workplaces has been on employee wellness. While wellness programs may be construed to be out of concern for the health and well-being of employees, the increasing focus largely stems from the rising costs of healthcare. Employers attempt to curb the costs they pay for employee health insurance by encouraging employees to become healthier. Some examples of workplace wellness programs can include:
- Having healthier options in workplace cafeterias or vending machines;
- Providing lunchtime yoga or fitness classes;
- Providing access to on-site fitness centers;
- Educational health workshops;
- Having exercise desks; or
- Providing incentives for participation in wellness programs.
Providing opportunities for employees to improve their health can be very beneficial to both the employee and employer. However, have some companies taken the emphasis on health too far?
Using Health As An Employment Factor
Some employers have been up-front about their consideration of a job applicant’s health when making hiring decisions. For example, a company came under fire for refusing to hire individuals over a certain body mass index (BMI). The accuracy of the BMI chart, however, has been repeatedly questioned when determining the health and obesity of individuals. Additionally, many companies started refusing to hire individuals who smoked–even if they never smoked at or around the workplace. Discrimination against smokers in hiring eventually led to legislation protecting the rights of smokers to work in 29 states plus the District of Columbia. Florida currently has no such law protecting smokers from hiring discrimination and employees can be discharged or disciplined for smoking in off-duty hours. Finally, some employers have disciplined and even refused to provide health coverage to employees who would not undergo medical assessments and participate in wellness programs. This led to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
While, at this time, it is not unlawful to refuse to hire seemingly unhealthy people, if a health condition rises to the level of a disability, any discrimination is likely a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If you are unsure of whether you have a protected disability, you should discuss your situation with an employment attorney. In addition, requiring that applicants or employees provide health information that is not related to employment can also be a violation of the law. Employers who violate employment laws should be held accountable even if it is under the guise of encouraging employee wellness.
Consult With A Qualified Florida Employment Lawyer Today
If you have questions or concerns regarding actions of your employer or believe you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination based on disability or other factors, you should never delay in scheduling a consultation with a highly experienced employment lawyer in Plantation, FL. The law firm of Robert S. Norell, P.A. has assisted many employees throughout Florida to stand up for their rights under state and federal laws. We can evaluate your case and determine whether you have a viable claim, so please call our office at 800-796-0849 for assistance.