Could Employer Wellness Programs Impact Your Workers’ Comp Case?


Could Employer Wellness Programs Impact Your Workers’ Comp Case?

When your employer starts a wellness program in the workplace, be aware that it could impact your ongoing or future workers’ compensation case. These programs can incentivize employees to take care of their health, but they also help employers gather information about health.

What Is an Employer Wellness Program?

An employer wellness program is a health initiative designed to give employees incentives for doing activities. For example, a wellness program could ask employees to get a physical, attend a healthy eating class, wear a pedometer, or participate in a weight-loss challenge. In exchange, employees may receive prizes, cash, or extra vacation time.

If you think these programs sound a little intrusive into privacy and health information, you may be right. Also, they may lead to employers gathering data on employees that can be used later to deny workers’ compensation benefits.

How Can Wellness Program Information Be Used Against Employees?

Employees may share all kinds of personal health information with coworkers and managers while participating in an employer wellness program:

  • Their family history of diseases
  • That they have allergies
  • That they have chronic medical conditions such as asthma
  • Their history of previous injuries
  • Information about exercise habits outside the workplace

This information could make its way to the workers’ compensation insurance company later on. For example, imagine that an employee begins to have trouble breathing while working with chemicals in a lab. She makes a workers’ compensation claim, asserting that she has damaged her lungs because of the inadequate safety equipment her employer provides. Several months earlier, she participated in a wellness program during which she told her manager that she has severe asthma and so couldn’t go on a walk with the team during a lunch break.

The employee’s manager tells H.R. that the employee has asthma, and H.R. passes on the information to the insurance company. As a result, the insurance company initially denies workers’ comp benefits, and its lawyer questions the employee extensively about her asthma and inhaler use at a deposition. The worker eventually does receive benefits. As you can see, participation in the wellness program had a hidden downside.

Need help getting workers’ compensation for your injury? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.