A Fatter Butt Equals a Skinnier Wallet: Why Workplace Wellness Programs Discriminate Against the Obese and Violate Federal Employment Law

Source: Steven C. Sizemore, Wyoming Law Review, 2011
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This comment examines the complicated nature of obesity in America to ascertain whether workplace wellness programs requiring the disclosure of legally protected genetic information discriminate against the obese and violate federal employment law. To accomplish this, the background section discusses the facts behind America’s alleged obesity epidemic in an attempt to address some of the societal issues underpinning America’s growing concern with obesity and the workplace wellness program solution. Following a discussion of the relevant sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), this comment analyzes whether the ADA and GINA permit employers to provide discounts to the non-obese which results in charging the obese more for the same insurance benefits. This comment concludes Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) sanction of workplace wellness programs discriminates against the obese and violates the ADA and GINA by unequally allocating health insurance benefits among employees and requiring the disclosure of statutorily protected genetic information.

While workplace wellness programs provide a multitude of benefits for employers and their employees, ultimately such programs discriminate against the obese through the unequal distribution of health insurance premiums and violate federal employment law by compelling the disclosure of legally protected information. As a result, PPACA’s endorsement of workplace wellness through awarding grants to implement workplace wellness programs discriminates against the obese and violates federal employment law.

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