Corporate Wellness Programs: Implementation Challenges in the Modern American Workplace

Document Type : Perspective


The H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA


Being healthy is important for living well and achieving longevity. In the business realm, furthermore, employers want healthy employees, as these workers tend to be more productive, have fewer rates of absenteeism, and use less of their health insurance resources. This article provides an overview of corporate “wellness” efforts in the American workplace and the concomitant challenges which employers will confront in implementing these programs. Consequently, employers and managers must reflect upon wellness policies and objectives, consult with professionals, and discuss the ramifications thereof prior to implementation. The authors herein explore how employers are implementing policies that provide incentives to employees who lead “healthy” lifestyles as well as ones that impose costs on employees who lead “unhealthy” lifestyles.
The distinctive contribution of this article is that it proactively explores wellness program implementation challenges and also supplies “best practices” in the modern workplace, so employers can be better prepared when they promulgate wellness policies, and then take practical steps to help their employees become healthier and thereby help to reduce insurance costs. The article, moreover, addresses how wellness policy incentives—in the form of “carrots” as well as penalties—in the form of “sticks” could affect employees, especially “non-healthy” employees, as well as employers, particularly legally. Based on the aforementioned challenges, the authors make practical recommendations for employers and managers, so that they can fashion and implement wellness policies that are deemed to be legal, ethical, and efficacious.




Watch the Video Summary here



Main Subjects

1. Cavico FJ, Cavico NM. Employment At-Will, Public Policy, and the Nursing Profession. Quinnipiac Health Law Journal 2005; 8: 161–238. doi: 10.1177/0272989X9801800124
2. Examination Management Service, Inc. v. Kersh Risk Management, Inc., 367 S.W.3d 835 (Tex. App. 2012).
3. Walter Haverfield LLP. Employee Benefits. Wellness Programs. [cited 2013 February 22]. Available from:
4. Juergens JL. Gallagher Sharp Attorneys. Wellness Programs: Issues Employers Must Conquer To Avoid Legal Consequences. 2009.[cited 2013 February 23]. Available from:
5. Mattke S, Schnyer Ch, Van Busum KR. A Review of the U.S. Workplace Wellness Market. Rand Corporation, U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012 July. Document Number.: OP-373-DOL.
6. Mujtaba BG, Cavico FJ. Employee Wellness Programs’ “Carrots” and “Sticks”. Academy for Global Business Advancement Proceedings; June 15–17, 2013; Bangkok, Thailand.
7. Cavico FJ, Mujtaba BG. Health and Wellness Policy Ethics.International Journal of Health Policy and Management 2013; 1: 111–13. doi: 10.15171/ijhpm.2013.19
8. Eyal N. Denial of treatment to obese patients—the wrong policy on personal responsibility for health. International Journal of Health Policy and Management 2013; 1: 107–10. doi: 10.15171/ijhpm.2013.18
9. Sizemore SC. A Fatter Butt Equals a Skinnier Wallet: Why Workplace Wellness Programs Discriminate Against the Obese and Violate Federal Employment Law. Wyoming Law Review 2011; 11: 639–72.
10. Stafford D. With more obese Americans, healthcare costs rise. The Miami Herald. 2013, April 11. p. 10B.
11. Lamkin M. Health Care Reform, Wellness Programs, and the Erosion of Informed Consent. Kentucky Law Journal 2013; 101: 435–82.
12. Hill C. International business: Competing in the global marketplace. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2013.
13. Kwoh L. Shape Up or Pay Up: Firms Put in New Health Penalties. The Wall Street Journal. 2013, April 6–7. p. A1–10.
14. Santich K. The price of poor health. Sun-Sentinel. 2013, April 28. p. 4D.
15. Mathews AW. When All Else Fails: Forcing Workers Into Healthy Habits. The Wall Street Journal. 2009, July 8. p. D1.
16. Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The Doctor Will See You Now. And Now. And Now. [updated 2013 May 20–26; cited 2013 July 10]. Available from:
17. Schmidt H, Voigt K, Wikler D. Carrots, Sticks, and Healthcare Reform—Problems with Wellness Incentives. N Eng J Med 2010; 362: e3. doi: 10.1056/nejmp0911552
18. Cavico FJ, Mujtaba BG. Managers Be Warned! Third-Party Retaliation Lawsuits and the United States Supreme Court. International Journal of Business and Social Sciences 2011; 2: 8–17.
19. EEOC [homepage on the Internet]. [cited 2013 February 22]. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Available from:
20. Employee Benefits Legal Blog [homepage on the Internet]. 2008. [cited 2013 February 22]. Is a Wellness Program an ERISA Plan? Available from:
21. Noll E. Good-Intentioned Wellness Programs Need Rules Too. Corporate Wellness Magazine [serial on the Internet]. [updated 2010 July 8]. [cited 2013 February 22]; Available from:
22. Muffler SC, Cavico FJ, Mujtaba BG. Diversity, Disparate Impact, and Ethics in Business: Implications of the New Haven Firefighters’ Case and the Supreme Court’s Ricci v. DeStefano Decision. SAM Advanced Management Journal 2010; 75: 11–9.