Jul 16, 2019
AARP Foundation Files Class Action Against Yale University Challenging Workplace Wellness Penalties

En español | WASHINGTON—AARP Foundation and the law firm of Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C., filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Yale University employees today, alleging that Yale’s employee wellness program violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). The Complaint contends that Yale forces certain of its employees and their spouses to either submit to medical exams and disclose personal health information and family medical history or pay heavy financial penalties.

Yale’s employee wellness program, Health Expectations, requires approximately 5,000 union employees and their spouses to submit to medical tests and allow release of all of their insurance claims data to multiple wellness vendors. Employees who refuse to disclose private medical and genetic information must pay a fine of $1,300 per year. 

“This is a particularly important issue for older workers, who are more likely to have disabilities and medical conditions—such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer—that are at risk of being revealed by wellness questionnaires and exams,” said AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson, “and it hits low-income workers the hardest. Allowing employers to financially coerce workers into relinquishing their personal health information is a clear violation of medical privacy and civil rights protections.” 

Both the ADA and GINA are federal laws that protect employee privacy and allow workers to shield themselves from discrimination in the workplace. The AARP Foundation lawsuit argues that Yale’s Health Expectations program puts workers between a rock and hard place: employees either must hand over sensitive medical and genetic information on themselves and their spouses, or pay a heavy financial penalty to protect their personal health information.

“Under federal law, disclosing medical and genetic information and test results in workplace wellness programs must be voluntary,” said William Alvarado Rivera, Senior Vice President of Litigation at AARP Foundation. “Workers should have the freedom to choose whether to divulge personal health information in the workplace, as Congress intended.”

Allowing employers and others access to private medical information could lead to people being fired, not hired, or discriminated against in other ways based on their health history. Ensuring that inquiries and exams in wellness programs are voluntary is a self-help mechanism for workers who do not want to risk these consequences.

AARP and AARP Foundation have long advocated for voluntary participation in workplace wellness programs. In October 2016, AARP successfully sued the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to invalidate federal wellness rules that allowed employers to penalize workers for keeping health information private.  

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About AARP Foundation
AARP Foundation works to end senior poverty by helping vulnerable older adults build economic opportunity and social connectedness. As AARP’s charitable affiliate, we serve AARP members and nonmembers alike. Bolstered by vigorous legal advocacy, we spark bold, innovative solutions that foster resilience, strengthen communities and restore hope. To learn more about AARP Foundation visit aarpfoundation.org.

About AARP
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

About Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C.
Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C. has represented employees throughout Connecticut for more than 40 years. Leading advocates for workers' rights, the employment lawyers at Garrison, Levin-Epstein have been recognized by clients and peers alike for their representation of Connecticut’s employees.  For more information, visit garrisonlaw.com. 

Media Contact: Greg Phillips, gphillips@aarp.org, 202-434-2560, @AARPMedia