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EEOC Pauses Trump-Era Rules on Union Time, Wellness Programs (2)

Feb. 12, 2021, 7:33 PMUpdated: Feb. 12, 2021, 11:04 PM

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will freeze Trump-era regulatory actions that govern union “official time” and voluntary corporate wellness programs.

This is the first time the civil rights agency—which now has a Democratic chair while Republicans maintain a majority on its five-member leadership panel—will pause rulemakings from the Trump administration.

The agency announced Friday that the “official time” rule—which prevents EEOC employees who also serve as union representatives from devoting paid work time to colleagues’ discrimination complaints—will be retracted from the Federal Register. Although it was finalized Jan. 7 and sent to the Federal Register, it wasn’t published before Jan. 20 when the Biden administration ordered a halt to any regulations from the previous administration that hadn’t taken effect.

The EEOC also said it will pull back proposals on the kinds of incentives employers can offer workers to encourage enrollment in voluntary wellness programs. The programs must be voluntary to comply with federal disability and genetic information laws. The agency proposed the rules for preview in January and also sent them to the Federal Register, but they similarly weren’t published before Inauguration Day.

“The next steps for each rule are under consideration,” the agency said on its website.

The proposed rules on wellness program perks were recently cited by business groups asking the EEOC for clarification on whether employers can provide incentives to encourage workers to receive Covid-19 vaccines. The now-paused proposals said some “de minimis” incentives, like a water bottle or “a gift card of modest value,” could be offered to encourage wellness program enrollment, without running afoul of federal anti-discrimination laws.

The agency said that its final rule on conciliation, an alternative process to litigation used by the agency to resolve bias claims, will take effect on Feb. 16—as it announced before Inauguration Day. The final rule, which will give employers access to more information during conciliation, was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 13.

“Any conciliations that begin after that date will be conducted in accordance with the rule,” an EEOC spokesperson said in an email.

(Updated to include EEOC comment in eighth paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at; Martha Mueller Neff at