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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

Action Alert: Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act Threatens to Weaken ADA

The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (H.R. 1189) is being considered in the House as a measure to clarify the rules regarding employer wellness programs, and the Senate has introduced an identical bill. This legislation has the potential to be extremely harmful to individuals with disabilities, because it would make it significantly easier to discriminate against employees with disabilities.

NCIL logo - National Council on Independent LivingH.R. 1189 would weaken the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by narrowing privacy protections for individuals with disabilities whose employers have employee wellness programs. Companies would be allowed to impose harsh penalties on employees who refuse to disclose personal medical information, and individuals who do participate in wellness programs may potentially be penalized for failing to meet certain standards, even if they are not able to be met because of a disability.

Congresswoman Slaughter (D-NY) and House Democratic Whip Hoyer (D-MD) released a joint statement against this legislation, calling it a “clear attack on Americans’ privacy” and stating that it would put the ADA’s protections at risk for workers and their families. NCIL signed on to a letter (PDF) the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) submitted to President Obama, and NCIL staff has joined other disability rights organizations in several conversations with the Administration and Congress.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on H.R. 1189 on Tuesday, which is available to view on YouTube. Additional information can also be found at the Committee’s website.

Last week the EEOC sent a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to the White House Office of Management and Budget, and it is supposed address the interaction of the ADA and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with respect to these wellness programs. While the EEOC has brought lawsuits against several employers who substantially penalized employees who wouldn’t provide personal medical information, there is significant pressure to allow wellness programs to continue functioning without having to adhere to the ADA. Once the EEOC’s NPRM is approved, it will be published in the Federal Register for a public comment period, and it’s important that we stay on top of this!

We need to make sure our voices are heard, so once the NPRM is published, get your comments in. Also, make sure to contact your Representative and let him or her know that you oppose H.R. 1189. This bill will take away some of the protections that our community has fought so hard for, and we have to act on this now!

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