KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Lawsuit Challenges Employer Wellness Program

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought a lawsuit on behalf of a former employee of Orion Energy Systems, based in Manitowoc, Wis., saying she was punished and then fired for refusing to participate in a company wellness program. Another story looks at how companies are buying or subsidizing fitness-tracking devices to encourage employees to be more fit. 

Bloomberg: First Wellness Program Firing Suit Filed By U.S. Agency
Orion Energy Systems Inc. (OESX) was sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly punishing, then firing, a worker who refused to participate in a company wellness program. The complaint filed today in Green Bay, Wisconsin, federal court is the first to challenge a wellness program under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the EEOC said in a statement. Orion, a maker of energy-efficient lighting systems, is based in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. While most Americans approve of programs offered by employers to promote healthy behavior, a majority says it’s not appropriate for employers to require people who don’t participate to pay higher premiums, according to results of a June survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit health-care research organization (Harris, 8/20).

Herald Times Reporter: Lawsuit Challenges Orion Wellness Program
Manitowoc-based Orion Energy Systems violated federal law by requiring an employee to submit to medical exams and inquiries that were not job-related as part of a so-called “wellness program,” which was not voluntary, and then by firing the employee when she objected to the program, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, Green Bay (8/20). 

Bloomberg: Wear This Device So The Boss Knows You’re Losing Weight
To fight rising medical costs, oil company BP Plc (BP) last year offered Cory Slagle -- a 260-pound former football lineman -- an unusual way to trim $1,200 from his annual insurance bill. One option was to wear a fitness-tracking bracelet from FitBit Inc. to earn points toward cheaper health insurance. With the gadget, the 51-year-old walked more than 1 million steps over several months, wirelessly logging the activity on the device. Twelve months later, Slagle has added to his new exercise regimen by trading burgers for salads and soda for water, dropping 70 pounds (31.8 kilograms) and 10 pant sizes in the process (Satariano, 8/21).

Earlier related KHN coverage: Employers Tie Financial Rewards, Penalties to Health Tests, Lifestyle Choices (Appleby, 4/2/2012).

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