Health and Wellness Programs and the FLSA

Today’s FLSA Question: I am my city’s HR manager. Our city provides health and wellness activities for city employees. As part of this program, employees can voluntarily participate in biometric testing programs. These include blood pressure, cholesterol, and other important health screenings. Employees who participate receive discounts off their portion of health insurance premiums.

We schedule many activities during the workweek, and employees are allowed to participate during work hours without loss of pay. The vast majority of participants work a traditional Monday-through-Friday schedule. However, since our public safety personnel work varying hours they often attend while off-duty. While the program is voluntary, we encourage participation, and employees receive a financial benefit for participating.

Does the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) allow these employees to return to their workplace and participate in this work-sponsored activity without receiving compensation?

That is a great question. As a general rule, the FLSA would not require employers to compensate employees for participating in the type of health and wellness activities you described above. There are three key factors in making this determination.

First, the program is voluntary. If the city required attendance, the time would be compensable. Second, the program is not related to the employees’ jobs. If the employee performed any work during the time spent at the wellness program, that time would also be compensable. Finally, the employer does not benefit from the employee’s participation in the program. While the city may indirectly benefit from having healthy employees, employees receive the primary benefit of reduced health insurance co-shares and better overall health.

The fact that the employer sponsors the event and that some employees receive compensation, depending upon their work schedule, while others attend during off-duty hours does not affect this analysis.

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