CVS pushes the limits of wellness programs

Do you have to reimburse employees for the time and money they dedicate to medical examinations for your company’s wellness program? That’s the issue being decided in a proposed class-action suit against CVS

CVS pushes the limits of wellness programs
rmacy chain CVS is being sued by a cashier after she became unhappy with the way the company’s wellness program is run – and the results could have serious repercussions for companies across the nation.

CVS requires employees to disclose personal information including weight and level of sexual activity, and employees are expected to cover their own costs involved with health screenings. The wellness program is voluntary, but those who do not participate are penalized $600 extra on the company’s healthcare plan.

So Roberta Watterson is looking to the courts to demand compensation for the $25 co-pay that the health screening cost her, as well as the gas she used to travel to the doctor and the free time she spent on the test and the wellness survey. Naturally, CVS has publicly stated the case has no merit and that the company complies with the law in every way.

In May last year, the EEOC met to discuss the legal implications of the prevalence of wellness programs, and predicted greater boundaries in months to come. At the time, Commissioner Victoria Lipnic stated: “As wellness programs become more prevalent, fostered in part by the signature health care initiative of the Administration, we can be certain that their use will present more questions with respect to the federal laws we enforce.”

Benefits specialists at legal firm Fennemore Craig, which was ranked number 10 in the Phoenix Business Journal’s healthiest employers list, said that while it sounded like CVS was probably in the legal right, that didn’t mean their system was the right thing to do by employees.

“You’ve got to consider your workforce and the impact these will have on your workforce,” says Erwin Kratz, director in the employee benefits practice at the firm. “The heavier handed approach is the better way to go if your only consideration is to be healthy, but there’s also the interference with individuals and privacy.”

“The distinction that it’s a third party, and not the company, knowing their information may be lost on an employee,” he says.

“In our case we take a little bit of a softer approach,” says Cheryl Mostrom, Fennemore Craig’s benefits manager. The firm’s wellness program offers incentives for participation, not personal health goals. Physical exercise challenges like walking competitions are nearly all done on employees’ personal time, but they are not penalized if they cannot participate. Biometric tests are done on-site once a year, during working hours.

“There’s a cost component that we as business people need to do, and that’s a reality,” says Mostrom. “It’s also the right thing to do, and that’s an important perspective, because our people are our resources.”

You might also like:
How employees can use FMLA to party in Vegas
Catch up on paid sick leave legal changes
Compulsory paid family leave could inflate the cost of wages

Recent articles & video

Four ways to improve recruiting and retention

Department of Labor releases final rule on 401(k) plan investments

How to Create a Phenomenal Employee Experience & Future Proof Your HR Strategy in 2023

Can an employer stop medical treatment authorized for a worker's injury?

Most Read Articles

Does your benefits package include an employee discounts program?

Furniture company fires 2,700 workers just before Thanksgiving

32% of Americans admit to lying on their resume