What is an example of what an employer can do safely? What is on the edge?

Minneapolis attorney Monica Kelley, specialist in advising employers on employee benefits packages, describes what an employer can and cannot do in a wellness plan.

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Well something you can do safely, no doubt about it. You can, for example, provide a smoking cessation program free of charge to your employees so that any employee who wants to quit smoking can attend the program and have the opportunity to really work towards that goal. You can also some employers provide a discount on membership in a gym. So if you want to just say anybody who’s a member in a gym show us your receipt that you have joined the gym and we will provide you a $35.00 per month contribution towards that gym membership because we think it’s a good idea. Those are clearly okay. Those are what we call participatory programs and all you have to do is participate and you get the benefit.

The ones that are more on the edge are the ones where you are collecting the information. As I said earlier, collecting that information can be a little bit dangerous. So when you start collecting biometric information, particularly biometric information about someone’s spouse as well as the employee then you may be starting to get into some more dangerous territory. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it and plenty of employers are out there doing it but you have to be careful that it is still be collected on a voluntary basis. When I as the employee or as the spouse go in for the biometric screening, do I really have a choice about it or are you making the incentive to do it, say the $100.00 a month off of my health insurance is that enough to make it no longer voluntary but compulsory?