Yale University Hit with Class Action Over Wellness Program’s Mandatory Opt-Out Fees

Jul 17 2019

As it appeared on ClassAction.org

by Erin Gilmore

Yale University faces a proposed class action lawsuit over the mandatory fees charged to union members who opt out of the university’s wellness program.

Yale, according to the lawsuit, requires members of two of the school’s local unions to participate in the Health Expectation Program (HEP), a wellness program that the case says requires Yale employees and their spouses to submit to “invasive medical examinations and testing” and divulge protected medical information. If members do not comply with HEP’s “stringent requirements,” they must pay a fine of $25 per week, which adds up to $1,300 per year, the lawsuit explains.

A table summarizing the HEP’s testing requirements has been included below:

Health Care Requirements

In addition to these “burdensome medical examinations,” the HEP, the case continues, also requires that some union members consult with a health coach. The university allegedly gleans information from employees’ health insurance claims and assigns them a health coach if it determines that their medical history presents “certain risk variables” such as multiple chronic conditions, “lab values out of range,” or a diagnosis of diabetes, heart disease, heart failure, or other conditions.

The plaintiffs, several members of the University’s Local 34 and Local 35, claim the hefty financial penalty imposed on them for choosing not to comply with the HEP renders their participation in the program involuntary and therefore violates their right to keep their personal information private. According to the case, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibit employers from obtaining employees’ medical and genetic information unless the data is provided voluntarily.

“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,” the complaint stresses. “These members of Local 34 and Local 35 are forced to disclose sensitive medical information and undergo invasive testing to avoid the weekly fine.”

The lawsuit notes that Yale partners with two third-party vendors, non-parties HealthMine and Trestle Tree, to administer the HEP program. HealthMine assists Yale in determining whether union members require a health coach, the case explains, and if so, forwards their insurance claims data to Trestle Tree. Trestle Tree then pairs the individual with a health coach, the suit says.

Importantly, the lawsuit stresses, Trestle Tree is not an entity covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), meaning that employees’ private medical data is no longer under the same level of protection once it is transferred to Trestle Tree. According to the case, HEP participants are asked to sign a HIPAA waiver in order to receive HEP credit; however, the lawsuit alleges that HealthMine transfers employees’ private data to Trestle Tree even when they refuse to sign the waiver.

“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 charges.

The lawsuit, apart from seeking monetary damages, looks to prohibit Yale from continuing to impose a weekly fine on union members for their non-participation in its wellness program as well as bar the university from divulging their private data to third parties.

Share this Post

yale wellness garrison law

About the Author

Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C.

Advocating for Employees
since 1977

Best Lawyers

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

    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

    Advocating for Employees since 1977

    American Law Institute Super Lawyers American College of Trial Lawyers Best Lawyers The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
    Back to Top
    (203) 815-1716