Oregon State Workers Sue to Block Wellness Program

February 17, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Five Oregon state workers have filed a federal class-action lawsuit claiming a newly-established employee wellness program violates their civil rights and privacy.

The lawsuit targets the Health Engagement Model (HEM), which requires that adults enrolled in the health plan for state employees complete an online health risk assessment survey conducted by their insurance provider, the Salem Statesman Journal reports. Those who don’t participate in the HEM are charged a monthly penalty of $20 if they are single or $35 if they are covered as a couple.   

The employees claim that this means the program is not voluntary. The lawsuit alleges that the program coerces state workers into providing personal medical information, in violation of state and federal law.  

According to the news report, the employees are asking the court to stop the state from pursuing the HEM. It also requests unspecified damages.  

The named defendants are the state of Oregon, its Department of Administrative Services (DAS), the Department of Corrections, Oregon State Police and DAS Director and state Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan, but the Public Employees’ Benefit Board (PEBB), the agency that manages the state employee health plan and created the Health Engagement Model, is not named.  

The Salem Statesman Journal said the HEM already has survived one challenge to its legitimacy. In December, the state Employment Relations Board rejected an unfair labor complaint filed by the Association of Oregon Corrections Employees (AOCE).  

The AOCE claimed the state violated labor law by implementing the HEM without negotiating the matter in union contract talks. The labor board ruled that PEBB had the right to enact the program under its authority as the employee health plan manager.