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Health risk assessments may be against employees' rights

As many New York workers know, some employers have health wellness programs for employees. Joining wellness programs may have a positive effect on some workers' health and possibly insurance premiums. Even the Affordable Care Act allows for a different premium based on participation in such schemes.

Currently, some employers are asking employees to answer a Health Risk Assessment. The assessments include questions concerning current or future plans for pregnancy, whether the employee drinks after work, suffers from depression or if the employee has certain medical conditions. If the employee refuses, they may face monetary penalties or discrimination.

The use of HRAs has been lackluster due to employee refusal. For now, employees are protected from disclosing personal medical information under the Americans with Disabilities Act, unless disclosure is voluntary or strictly job-related. The use of HRAs cannot be forced upon the employee, according to the ADA. In three cases where employees were penalized for not completing an HRA, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took issue with the practice and lodged claims against employers. The EEOC considers involuntary pressure to answer HRAs to be against employees' rights.

There has been pressure on the EEOC to change its definition of the word voluntary by corporate groups. In addition, these groups are making an effort to change ADAs guidelines for employee discrimination using the ACAs wellness exception. Opponents contend the ACA exception has strict guidelines, and many employers do not meet the standard.

If a potential employee has been pressured to answer questions, which they feels uncomfortable answering, it may be beneficial to speak with an attorney. The attorney may provide insight into whether such questions are appropriate under the law. The attorney may help by filing a discrimination claim against the employer if the employee's rights were violated.

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