In a recent informal opinion letter, the EEOC said a county employer’s requirement that employees participate in a health risk assessment (HRA) as a condition of eligibility for its health plan violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As part of the HRA, employees were required to fill out a short health-related questionnaire, take a blood pressure test, and give a blood sample for screening. The results of the test were given directly and exclusively to the employee, with the county only receiving results in the aggregate. Employees who chose not to participate in the HRA (and their dependents) were ineligible for coverage under the county’s health plan.

The EEOC noted that the ADA requires disability-related questions or medical examinations of employees to be job-related and consistent with business necessity, which the HRA was not. The EEOC distinguished the HRA from a wellness program, which typically does not violate the ADA as long as it is voluntary. In the county’s case, even if the HRA were part of a wellness program, the program would not be voluntary because non-participants were penalized for non-participation (i.e. denied health plan coverage).

Although it is important for employers to be familiar with the positions taken by the EEOC in their informal discussion letters, it is also important to note that these letters are nonbinding and do not constitute official opinions of the EEOC.