November 3, 2014 / 10:25 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. judge denies EEOC bid to stop Honeywell wellness penalty

Nov 3 (Reuters) - In a victory for Honeywell International Inc, a U.S. judge rejected a bid by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to stop the company from imposing penalties on workers who refuse to be tested as part of a corporate wellness program.

U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery in Minneapolis denied the EEOC’s request for a temporary restraining order, according to a court filing on Monday.

The U.S. agency, which enforces federal labor laws having to do with discrimination, had said in a lawsuit filed last week that Honeywell planned to penalize workers who chose not to undergo biometric testing through surcharges or lost contributions to Health Savings Accounts. The lawsuit cites complaints from two Honeywell employees.

According to the lawsuit, workers and spouses are screened for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood-sugar levels, waist circumference and nicotine. The agency claimed the testing program violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

“We respect the court’s decision,” EEOC spokesman James Ryan said in a statement. “We will continue to do our statutorily prescribed duty to investigate the charges that have been filed with us.” He declined further comment.

In a statement, Honeywell said it was pleased the court ruled against the EEOC “and their attempt to stop our wellness program from moving forward in 2015.”

“Biometric information - which is never seen by Honeywell or Honeywell personnel - helps all employees make better decisions and we’re proud to provide our employees with the opportunity to lead healthier lifestyles,” the company said.

The lawsuit was the third case since August filed by the EEOC challenging a corporate wellness program, with Honeywell the biggest company to be targeted.

Wellness programs that encourage healthier habits have become increasingly popular in Corporate America, as they promise to improve productivity, cut absenteeism and reduce medical costs. (Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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