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Judge Denies EEOC Plea to Halt Honeywell Worker-Health Penalties

Nov. 4, 2014
A judge rules that Honeywell International can penalize employees who don't participate in wellness testing while a lawsuit opposing that practice is litigated.

A U.S. district judge has ruled that Honeywell International (IW 500/33) can continue its policy of penalizing workers who don't take part in a corporate health testing program while a federal lawsuit opposing that practice is contested in court.

According to reports from Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, Minneapolis-based U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery rejected a plea for a restraining order seeking to have Honeywell immediately halt the practice. The plea was filed last week by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to Reuters' report, the EEOC contends that the testing portion of Honeywell's wellness program—which includes screening of workers and their spouses for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood-sugar levels, nicotine and waist circumference—violates two federal laws, the American with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

An EEOC spokesman said "We respect the court's decision," but added that "We will continue to do our statutorily prescribed duty to investigate the charges that have been filed with us."

In a statement, Honeywell noted out that "Biometric information—which is never seen by Honeywell or Honeywell personnel—helps all employees make better decisions, and we're proud to provide our employees with the opportunity to lead healthier lifestyles."

Honeywell also said it "doesn't believe it's fair to the employees who do work to lead healthier lifestyles to subsidize the health-care premiums for those who do not."

American Benefits Council President James Klein said in a statement that the judge's ruling "offers welcome relief for company sponsors of employee wellness programs."

"The district court's denial of the EEOC's request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction relied on a finding that the program does not pose 'irreparable harm' to participants," Klein said. "In fact, quite the contrary is true. Health screening is a way to get employees engaged in taking steps to improve their health and well-being."

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