Today's News & Commentary — October 30
The Wall Street Journal reports that EEOC is suing Honeywell for its “employee wellness program.” Honeywell, like many other companies, recently created a program designed to encourage employees to improve their health, and in the process reduce health care costs for their employer. Wellness programs are not by themselves illegal, and the Affordable Care Act in some ways incentivizes such initiatives as a way to manage health care costs. However, according to the Journal, the EEOC has frequently cautioned business that wellness programs might violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and possibly other laws when “the penalties or rewards become so extreme that employees essentially afford” to not participate in the program. Under Honeywell’s wellness program, employees who decline to undertake various medical screenings could lose up to $4000.
A column in the Boston Globe reports on paid sick leave in the restaurant industry, which has become a major issue in the governor’s race. If voters pass Question 4 on the Massachusetts ballot in next week’s election, a new law will go into effect requiring restaurants, hotels, and retail stores to offer paid sick leave to employees. The Massachusetts Restaurant Association has strongly opposed it, calling it a “rigid job-killing mandate.” But, the Globe concludes, similar laws haven’t caused dire results in the other states.
According to Politico, the D.C. City Council voted to legalize Uber and Lyft last this week. (Our past coverage of Uber is here). The Teamsters union, which represents taxi cab drivers in D.C., opposed the bill. The bill also required Uber and Lyft to carry more extensive insurance and undergo background checks.
The Federal Reserve is ending its stimulus program, known as quantitative easing, according to the New York Times. Since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008, the Fed has been concerned about slow growth and bought trillions of dollars in bonds as well as kept interest rates as near zero, in an effort to spur growth. A separate Times article explains the effect of Fed’s bond buying efforts. The Times concludes that while the program has successfully improved the financial markets, its effect on the larger economy is much harder to measure.