Suit: Yale health program fines employees, requires invasive tests

Jul 18 2019

As it appeared on the New Haven Register
By Ben Lambert

NEW HAVEN — A group of Yale employees have sued the university, alleging weekly fines levied for not participating in a wellness program violate their civil rights.

According to the complaint, written on behalf of employees from the Unite Here union, Locals 34 and 35, by the New Haven-based law firm Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti and lawyers from the AARP Foundation, the university requires employees in those unions to participate in its Health Expectation Program or pay $25 each week, adding up to $1,300 a year.

“Yale’s $1,300 fine… places Yale employees who are subject to the HEP in an untenable position: either divulge protected information (including prior insurance claims data) and submit to invasive medical examinations and testing, or forfeit a substantial portion of their salary to keep their personal medical and genetic information private,” the attorneys said in the complaint. ”Yale’s $1,300 fine not only slashes employees’ expected income; it violates their civil rights. The Americans with Disabilities Act… and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act… prohibit employers from extracting medical or genetic information from employees unless that information is provided voluntarily.”

Karen Peart, director of external communications at Yale, said Wednesday that the university does not comment on pending litigation.

The Health Expectations Program requires the employees and their spouses to get a series of tests, vaccines and examinations, including “mammograms, colonoscopies, and blood testing,” and, the suit claims and for some with particular medical conditions or risk factors, to consult with a “health coach.”

If they do not complete the required tests or actions, the $25-per-week fine is levied, the suit claims.

Given the wages of some of the members of UNITE 34 and UNITE 35, the complaint argues that the financial penalty amounts to coercion by Yale — that the employees, given what they make, cannot afford not to participate in the program, according to the suit.

“The $25 per week fine imposes a significant burden on certain members of the Class; so much so that paying the $25 per week fine is not a viable option. These members of Local 34 and Local 35 are forced to disclose sensitive medical information and undergo invasive testing to avoid the weekly fine,” said attorneys on behalf of the Yale employees in the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that the university unlawfully shared medical information with Trestle Tree, a vendor that administrates the program, but is not covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The suit seeks injunctions to stop the $25 per week fine, stop the transfer of data to Trestle Tree without consent, and to purge medical and genetic information previously collected through the Health Expectation Program.

It also seeks damages, legal expenses, and other relief deemed just and proper by the court.

The AARP Foundation issued a press release announcing the lawsuit.

“This is a particularly important issue for older workers, who are more likely to have disabilities and medical conditions—such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer — that are at risk of being revealed by wellness questionnaires and exams — and it hits low-income workers the hardest,” said AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson as part of that release, “Allowing employers to financially coerce workers into relinquishing their personal health information is a clear violation of medical privacy and civil rights protections.”

Share this Post

wellness garrison levin epstein

You deserve justice. We are here to fight for you.

Let Us Review Your Case

We will respond to your message promptly. Although we will keep your message strictly confidential, please note that contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Client Experiences

During a very difficult employment situation, I was referred to Joe Garrison. Recognizing the volatile and time sensitive nature of my employment situation, Mr. Garrison met with me immediately (on the weekend no less). He listened to the details of my case, was able to think through possible creative solutions to offer the employer, and was responsive to my myriad of questions. He understood my concerns about litigation versus settlement, and he worked to find the best resolution possible. I am grateful to have had his support at a very difficult time. —J.C., New Haven, CT

Ethan Levin-Epstein represented me during a most painful and challenging crisis in my personal and professional life. Seeing me within 24 hours of being referred, his support and advocacy, wisdom and clarity not only resulted in a favorable negotiated outcome for me and for my family, but gave me peace of mind and the courage to recover. I am very grateful to have met Ethan and his team and would refer anyone in need to this haven. — C.L., Guilford, CT

You will never meet a more knowledgeable and compassionate professional than Steve Fitzgerald. My employment situation was very complex, and Attorney Fitzgerald kept me focused while remaining extremely adept and “thinking on his feet.” Should the need present itself again, I would never seek anyone else’s counsel regarding employment issues. I cannot recommend him highly enough. — J.R., New Haven, CT

Nina Pirrotti provided outstanding legal advice and was trustworthy, dependable, and responsive. From the start, I was confident that her knowledge and experience would obtain favorable results. On a more personal note, I enjoyed working with her and her staff and felt I was included in every part of the process. The dedication, concern, and interest in me as a client was greatly appreciated, and Nina has earned my highest recommendation. — J.H., Monroe, CT

I recently found myself in need of a lawyer in handling a dispute with my former employer. I was fortunate to retain Josh Goodbaum as my legal counsel. His legal skills knowledge and professionalism shone through in every step of the process resulting in a very positive result. I highly recommend Josh if you find yourself in need of legal counsel. — S.R., Guilford, CT

When I go to a lawyer for advice, I am usually anxious, particularly the first meeting. Amanda DeMatteis was clear in describing my options and immediately set me at ease. Realistic assessment is important, and Amanda was clear as to how to set up the case and the direction she felt we should go. I had total confidence in her abilities and knew I was being well represented against a large corporation. More importantly, we were successful! —N.M., Haddam, CT

Proven Results & Personalized Attention When You Need It Most

American Law Institute Super Lawyers American College of Trial Lawyers Best Lawyers The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
Back to Top