New EEOC Regulations Greatly Weaken Healthcare Privacy, Potentially Harmful Medically, and Trigger Heavy Financial Penalties on Employees and Families

The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) denounces new regulations by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that substantially weaken protections for invasions of medical privacy and employment discrimination.

“The new EEOC regulations are a crippling financial blow to employees and potentially medically harmful to employees and their families nationwide who should be afforded privacy over their personal medical, disability and genetic healthcare information,” said Chevese Turner, Binge Eating Disorder Association founder, president and CEO. “The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) provided clear protections to Americans who chose not to disclose their healthcare information to their employers, however new EEOC regulations will force people to be unfairly targeted and financially penalized for exercising their rights to privacy, or complying with their doctor’s orders when they are counter to a wellness program requirement.”

Many of the penalties in wellness programs are aimed at reducing the weight of employees, which is problematic. More than 30 million people[1], representing every body size and weight, have an eating disorder from which one person dies every 62 minutes[2], making it the most dangerous mental health condition. Weight loss mandates further complicate these disorders, and in general, weight loss programs have a solid record of minimal weight loss, high rates of regain, and negative outcomes both biologically and psychologically.

Due to the EEOC’s new regulations, employers will now be permitted to impose heavy financial penalties on workers and their spouses who wish to exercise their civil rights not to disclose medical and/or genetic information to their employers. While they serve to clarify the application of federal anti-discrimination laws to workplace wellness programs, the new EEOC regulations weaken the clear and strong protections provided under ADA and GINA.

Both ADA and GINA contain strong prohibitions against requiring or coercing employees to turn over their medical, disability and genetic information, because it often leads to discrimination on the job or in the provision of health insurance. The new EEOC rules violate the plain language of the civil rights laws, which say disclosing personal medical information to your workplace wellness program must be voluntary.

Under the new EEOC regulations, employees will be forced to choose to either disclose their personal medical information or pay thousands of dollars more for their health insurance. This is not voluntary.

These new EEOC rules open the door for:

  • Increased risk of job discrimination;
  • Increased risk of insurance discrimination based on health status, which the ACA was supposed to eliminate;
  • Widespread data-mining – collecting, compiling and selling personal medical information and that of one’s family;
  • Reluctance to get genetic testing or treatment for fear the information will make its way to an individual’s employer; and
  • Greatly increased costs for health insurance, as the price individuals pay to protect their medical information.

Additional resources:

Sources

  1. (2016, May 18). Facts About Eating Disorders: What The Research Shows. Retrieved from Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC): www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org/inner_template/about_us/who-we-are.html 
  2. (2016, May 18). Get The Facts On Eating Disorders. Retrieved from National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA): www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders