The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Honeywell Inc. over a health care policy that requires employees and their spouses to take medical tests or face monetary penalties.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis on behalf of two Minnesota employees. The case could define how far an employer can go in shifting health care costs to employees based on their behavior.
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The EEOC claims Honeywell's new health screening policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1rzjKor ) reported. The lawsuit is seeking a temporary injunction to stop the biometric testing, which can identify smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and other health problems. The Honeywell employee testing was slated to begin last week at a handful of sites throughout the U.S.
The screening program is designed to encourage employees to live healthier lifestyles and lower health care costs for them and the company, according to Honeywell. The company denies any wrongdoing because the screening and wellness program "are in strict compliance with both HIPAA and the Affordable Care Act's guidelines," it said in a statement.
The EEOC alleges the Honeywell program could cause up to $4,000 in penalties for employees if they and their spouses don't submit to the blood and medical tests. The agency has filed two other lawsuits in the past few months against other companies that have set up similar medical or wellness programs, according to EEOC attorney Laurie Vasichek. In Honeywell's case, the tests and potential penalties are unwarranted because they don't align with any business-related necessity, she said.
"The thing that is important about these cases is not that they are wellness or health programs, but that the company is requiring testing and asking disability questions when it's not job-related," Vasichek said. "They can only do that in situations where it's voluntary for the employee to answer."
The Morristown, New Jersey-based company began in Minneapolis and is still a major employer in the Twin Cities area. Honeywell operates in Minneapolis, Plymouth and Coon Rapids, as well as at a Golden Valley research center.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com