Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rules Sought for Workplace Wellness Questionnaires

1. Rules Sought for Workplace Wellness Questionnaires. (2013 September 24) New York Times.

2. Category of problem: Employee's rights, workplace discrimination

3. Level of problem: National level

4. The article concerns: A potential policy movement introduced by Rep. Louise Slaughter, that may make it illegal for businesses to force or coerce employees to take part in employer "wellness programs" (such as health related questionnaires and biometric assessments) that could be considered discriminatory or a violation of privacy.

5. Why this is important: If the movement towards stricter guidelines on employee wellness programs gains momentum, employees will enjoy a greater level of health-related privacy and lesser risk of workplace discrimination due to health-related issues. Employers will also have to examine and revise their use of wellness programs.

6. My views on this issue/policy: The incident which spurred the discussion on the, "intersection of wellness programs and federal anti-discriminatory laws", was the highly contested policy at Penn State holding that employees who do not complete an employer issued health-related questionnaire will be docked $100 from each monthly paycheck. I feel that coercive practices, such as this, to obtain private information not necessary to the core operation of a business, are gratuitous and unethical. 

If employers are legally able to offer employees financial incentives for the completion of a health questionnaire or similar assessment (as the article states), employees can be strongly coerced to divulge personal information, or be at an increased risk for discrimination. It's not difficult to determine why people want health-related matters (such as their genetic predisposition to disease or pregnancy plans) to be private, nor is it difficult to see how businesses would use health-related issues to discriminate against suitable candidates. However, current policy holds that it is illegal to discriminate based on health-related matters that do not patently interfere with an individuals ability to do their job.

Wellness programs should be held to the same standards as any other business practice which could easily foster workplace discrimination, i.e., contested employers should have to prove that the contested program/policy is in place for purposes that are necessary to core operations of their business.

1 comment:

  1. I agree, this whole thing seems not right. People's health records are kept so private today that the whole idea of this seems ridiculous. The only time we need to fill out information like that is at the doctor’s office and even then it feels weird. How could they ask such personal questions?
    I'd be mad. Even though I probably would disclose to a friend or college or even my boss if they asked that I plan on having children in the next 5-10 years. I would not, however, want that information documented on a paper that I filled out. I definitely agree that women should not have to disclose their future pregnancy plans.
    I also agree that it's unethical to ask employees to pay a fee for not wanting to fill out a questionnaire. I’ve heard of incentives through wellness programs for people’s participation. But never have I heard of a punishment for their lack of participation.
    I didn't know that it is illegal (or that there is an actual law preventing) to discriminate based on health related matters that do not interfere with ability to do their job. That makes sense. I was just unaware of such law.
    Even though through the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, insurances cannot deny you coverage based on your genetic makeup, you should feel safe that you can disclose such information. I still wouldn’t. I actually am afraid to have any genetic testing done for fear that in the future they might hold something against me. There’s protection against that for now. But someone could come along or something could happen that can change everything.
    What this article fails to mention is that through Obamacare, an insurance company CAN drop you after you have been diagnosed with a certain disease/ailment. Let’s focus on that!