White House Gives Nod to Honeywell-Style Wellness Programs

December 05, 2014

White House spokesperson Josh Earnest expressed concerns about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's recent lawsuit against Honeywell International at a press briefing this week while the Senate was voting on reconfirmation of EEOC General Counsel David Lopez who had filed the suit.  Earnest called the lawsuit "inconsistent with what we know about wellness programs and the fact that we know that wellness programs are good for both employers and employees."  The White House comments follow a heated Senate hearing last month during which Republicans strongly objected to the re-nomination of Lopez because of the Honeywell suit and other actions he has taken (see separate story).  Though Lopez was eventually confirmed this week along with Charlotte Burrows, who will fill the vacant fifth Commissioner seat on the EEOC, the party-line vote (54 to 43) as well as the strong criticism he received during the hearing were a clear indictment of Lopez's track record thus far.  At the White House press briefing, Earnest was careful to point out that EEOC is an independent agency and that he could not comment on pending litigation.  However, when pressed by reporters about whether the White House could do anything about the EEOC's challenge against Honeywell, he reiterated that "our views on the value of these kinds of wellness programs is well known and has been articulated on many occasions."  The question now is, if even the White House thinks Lopez has gone too far, will the EEOC continue to pursue the case?