In the past few years, companies across the nation, including here in Indiana, have jumped on board the health movement geared towards offering employees incentives for living a healthy lifestyle. Everything from reimbursements for gym memberships to money off insurance premiums for receiving regular health screenings, there is no doubt that many employers are fighting back against obesity with a vengeance.
But at what point do employee health programs cross the line into discrimination? As readers of our blog know from past posts, weight discrimination has become a hot-button topic as of late that has led to not only hurt feelings but lawsuits as well. It’s a memo CVS Caremark may not have received because the announcement of a new health incentive program for its employees is turning a few heads and raising a few eyebrows as well.
The controversial new program would require employees to report biometric data, such as their weight, blood sugar, body weight and cholesterol, in an annual screening. Failing to do so would cost the employee a $600 penalty. But while employers argue they are simply trying to encourage a healthier workforce, many people see it as not only an invasion of privacy but as discrimination as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of the U.S. population is considered obese. And while alarming, some critics would point out that a person’s weight has no bearing on their skills in the work setting. An employee is hired because they are thought to be a good fit for the job at hand, not because of their eating habits.
While controversial, the CVS’s wellness program might catch on if those who are offended by it do not speak out against it. Only time will tell if civil action is taken against the companies that do decide to discriminate against a person’s weight.
Source: Fortune, “Coming to a workplace near you: Fines for being fat?” Katherine Reynolds Lewis, April 15, 2013