Honeywell Defends Biometric Health Monitoring in Face of Lawsuit

Wearable Vital Biometrics Offer Passive And Persistent AuthenticationHoneywell International, Inc. has issued a response to a lawsuit filed against the company over its biometric healthcare screening program for employees, calling the lawsuit “frivolous” and the government body charging it “woefully out of step with the healthcare marketplace” and federal health legislation.

Honeywell launched the biometric screening program as part of an initiative to improve employee health, thereby lowering costs in insurance claims. The company’s blood and medical tests effectively screen employees for health risks, allowing the company to create incentives to nudge them towards healthier lifestyles. The thing is, the company is using both carrots and sticks, penalizing employees with surcharges for unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, or even spousal smoking. That drove a couple of employees to file formal complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which in turn alleges that Honeywell’s program violates both the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In its response, the company claims that no staff member “has ever been denied healthcare coverage or disciplined in any way as a result of their voluntary decision not to participate in our wellness programs,” and argues that it isn’t fair to employees leading healthier lifestyles that their insurance premiums should pay for those leading unhealthy lifestyles. And given the benefits the program offers in terms of outcomes, “encouraging more participation is the right thing to do.”

It’s a complicated issue, to be sure, and may be part of a growing trend. Some have already voiced alarm at the incursion of biometric monitoring into employees’ personal lives in the world of sports management; this issue with Honeywell brings the same controversy into a wider sphere of employment.

October 29, 2014 – by Alex Perala