New Haven, Conn.— Yale University and certain of its employees have agreed to settle a class action lawsuit, Kwesell v. Yale University, subject to Court approval. The lawsuit alleges that Yale’s Health Expectations Program violated federal statutes because it required employees and their spouses to either participate in the wellness program, which requires routine checkups and diagnostic testing, or pay a weekly opt-out fee. Under federal law, voluntary employer wellness programs are permissible. The Plaintiffs alleged that the $25 opt-out fee rendered the Program involuntary under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act. Plaintiffs in the case were represented by attorneys from AARP Foundation and Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C.
Yale implemented the Program as part of a collective bargaining agreement with two of its unions, under which most union employees paid no premium for their health plan coverage. At the time the program was developed, federal regulations authorized the charging of opt-out fees. Those regulations were later invalidated and to date have not been replaced, resulting in legal uncertainty regarding the permissible use and amount of opt-out fees.
“We designed the Health Expectations Program with our union partners and the advice of healthcare and legal experts,” remarked Stephanie Spangler, Vice Provost for Health Affairs and Academic Integrity on behalf of Yale. “Nevertheless, we feel it is best to resolve what would have been expensive litigation and move forward. Our relationship with our employees is an important priority.”
Under the proposed settlement agreement, Yale will continue to offer the Health Expectations Program, but will not charge opt-out fees for a four-year period and will change its practices regarding the transfer of health data in connection with the Program. Yale will also pay $1.29 million, to be distributed among employees who were covered by the Program and to cover plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and costs to the extent approved by the Court.
“We are very pleased with the settlement in this important case, both because of the significant amount of compensation for Yale’s employees and because of the example Yale is setting for other employers by eliminating their opt-out fees,” said William Alvarado Rivera, senior vice president for litigation at AARP Foundation. “We believe participating in a wellness program should be entirely voluntary, with no element of coercion, financial or otherwise.”
Plaintiffs in the case were represented by AARP Foundation lawyers, Dara S. Smith and Elizabeth Aniskevich, as well as Joshua Goodbaum of Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C. Yale University was represented by Jonathan Freiman and Kim Rinehart of Wiggin and Dana LLP.
About AARP Foundation
AARP Foundation works to end senior poverty by helping vulnerable people over 50 build economic opportunity. Our approach emphasizes equitable outcomes for populations that have faced systemic discrimination. As AARP's charitable affiliate, we serve AARP members and nonmembers alike. Through vigorous legal advocacy and evidence-based solutions, and by building supportive community connections, we foster resilience, advance equity and restore hope. To learn more, visit aarpfoundation.org or follow @AARPFoundation on social media.
About Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C.
Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald, and Pirrotti, P.C., has long been recognized as a preeminent Connecticut employment law firm for representing employees and fighting for workers’ rights. All six of our partners are recognized by Connecticut Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers, from which we have received multiple “Lawyer of the Year” honors, and all six are listed among the 500 Leading Plaintiff Employment Lawyers in the United States – by far the most of any Connecticut law firm.
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