AARP Foundation files class action suit against Yale University over employee wellness program

Jul 17 2019

As it appeared in MedCity News

The complaint alleges that the program, which involves workers undergoing certain medical examinations and divulging health info in lieu of a weekly fine is a violation of the American with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act.

By KEVIN TRUONG

The AARP Foundation has filed a class action on behalf of Yale University employees over requirements around the school’s Health Expectation wellness program.

The complaint alleges that Yale’s employee wellness program, which involves workers undergoing certain medical examinations and divulging health info and medical claims data is a violation of the American with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act.

Employees who decline to participate in the program are required to pay a fine of up to $1,300 a year in $25 weekly increments.

While the laws allow for the sharing of data voluntarily, the complaint says that the steep penalties associated with not taking part in the wellness program mean that employees are forced to participate and unduly share their private health information.

“The weekly penalty imposed by Yale has a coercive effect on its employees, forcing them to either pay a fine to protect their civil rights or participate in a wellness program against their will. That is a violation of the ADA and GINA,” the complaint states.

Another segment of the class action points to Yale’s use of third party data companies which help to administer the wellness program and link members with health coaches using health claims information.

“The claims migration process reveals and jeopardizes the privacy of sensitive information about employees’ and their spouses’ medical histories, including the manifestation of a disease or disorder—information protected under the ADA and GINA,” the complaint states.

The complaint relates the stories of multiple workers who found the potential penalties as burdensome to their livelihoods or who found the wellness program invasive to their privacy, including one woman who was forced to explain

AARP previously sued the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016 in a similar case arguing that the agency – which helps regulate wellness programs – over rules allowing for the implementation of financial rewards in exchange for the sharing of personal health information in “voluntary” wellness programs.

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