Weis Markets Faces Lawsuit for Allegedly Misusing EAP Benefit

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Weis Markets, a Pennsylvania supermarket chain. In the lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that a supervisor subjected an employee to sexual harassment, and the employer fired her after she refused to comply with its unlawful directive to participate in the company employee assistance program (EAP).

The employee reportedly reported her supervisor for sexual harassment after he made frequent sexual comments in the workplace, repeatedly winked at her, kissed her without consent, and spoke about his tendency toward violence. Although the supervisor admitted some of his behavior, the employer took no reasonable corrective action against the supervisor.

Instead, Weis advised the employee that co-workers had complained about her, and as a result, they required her to participate in the company EAP. The mandatory EAP participation would have required her to undergo a medical examination, answer questions related to disability, and release her medical information to the company so that they could determine whether to place her on disability leave. When the employee refused to comply with the EAP referral, Weis suspended her without pay and ultimately fired her.

The EEOC claims that the company’s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits employers from requiring employees to undergo medical examinations or answer questions likely to indicate whether they have disabilities unless the examinations and questions are job-related and consistent with business necessity. Furthermore, the ADA bars employers from retaliating against employees who refuse to comply with employer directives that violate the ADA.

Generally, EAPs are voluntary health and welfare benefit programs in which employers cannot force employees to participate. Furthermore, information employees disclose in EAPs is confidential, meaning employers cannot obtain information that employees discuss with EAPs, such as medical diagnoses or mental health issues. EAPs may be subject to HIPAA if they provide direct services to employees, such as sessions for employees with licensed mental health counselors. Under HIPAA, employers cannot disclose employees’ personal medical information. However, if the EAPs only provide referrals for employees, they are not subject to HIPAA requirements.

HBL has experience in all areas of benefits and employment law, offering a comprehensive solution to all your business benefits and HR/employment needs. We help ensure you are in compliance with the complex requirements of ERISA and the IRS code, as well as those laws that impact you and your employees. Together, we reduce your exposure to potential legal or financial penalties. Learn more by calling 470-571-1007.

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Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.

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