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Corporate wellness programs are great health incentives and provide community within the workplace while helping employees reach personal physical goals. However, some company wellness programs may fall short when it comes to accommodating employees with disabilities. On April 20, 2015 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) proposed a clarification to how Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to group health plans. The statement, known as The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, is proposed to ensure corporate wellness programs are reasonably designed to promote health or prevent disease, are voluntary, accommodate people with disabilities, and that employers are able to offer limited incentives for employees to participate or achieve certain health outcomes.

Regardless of whether or not the proposal passes, it is imperative for business owners to plan for reasonable accommodations, such as disability exercise equipment, to be built into their corporate wellness plan in order to best serve employees with disabilities. This type of commercial gym equipment will allow disabled employees to participate in any corporate wellness challenges or incentives in place.

Business owners will need to pay special attention to this new EEOC-mandated rule: the amount of corporate wellness incentives, monetary or otherwise, cannot exceed 30 percent of total cost for employee-only coverage. For example, if the business and employees agree to pay up to $4,000 for self-only coverage, then the incentive cannot exceed $1,200 per employee. Many employers are choosing to use a reward-based system for their corporate wellness program to encourage and motivate employees to participate, but do need to be mindful that there is now a limit on how much the rewards can cost.

Some other areas to monitor in order to ensure that a corporate wellness program is compliant with both the EEOC and the ADA include:

Is the overall purpose prevention-based with realistic goals?
What is the employer trying to prevent – obesity, diabetes and/or high turnover? Employees need to be educated on the opportunities available in the corporate wellness program, as well as its purpose. This can include providing educational pamphlets regarding preventing certain types of health conditions, such as diabetes or extreme weight. Employers need to be engaged with their employees to ensure the program is working to both educate and prevent these health issues. Employers should also provide clear instructions on how to participate and earn merits.

Remember: A corporate wellness program is a major investment for employees, so selling this feature as part of the benefits package can help discourage turnover.

How to handle opt-outs
Not every employee will want to take part of a corporate wellness program, and that is their choice. While seeing a healthier change in some employees may show stronger performance, not every person is the same. Just because they do not participate in healthy challenges in the workplace does not mean they do not do so in their own time away from work.

Employees should not have their health benefits revoked if they opt-out. They are still eligible for all the health coverage benefits offered for their salary base, and threatening to reduce or punish employees for not participating in the company health program is against the EEOC.

Employee contracts are necessary for any health program
If any employees are interested in joining the corporate wellness offerings, they should sign documentation to ensure no liability falls on the company for negligent activity in the fitness areas. Be sure to have a lawyer prepare or revise the company confidentiality agreement to alleviate the company from any injuries sustained from equipment misuse.  Employers should be concise about how they will collect and protect necessary medical information to handle any workman’s compensation cases for eligible incidents.

The EEOC is not limiting businesses choosing to provide healthier environments for their employees. Instead, they are helping employers be successful in providing healthier endeavors and protecting their business from any non-compliancy with the ADA act or other laws.

Advanced Exercise Equipment offers new and used commercial fitness equipment to a variety of businesses throughout the U.S. Our biggest sellers are from the Life Fitness and Hammer Strength fitness equipment lines. Get personalized attention to ensure your commercial fitness facility is ADA-compliant and set up for success! Call 1.800.520.1112 to get in touch with the fitness sales consultant in your area!