The Legal Case for Corporate Wellness
Lawyers who champion corporate wellness are champions in their own right. They give companies a reason, which is more a matter of moral justice than a mandate from our judicial system, to create-and popularize-a program that empowers workers by educating them about how to live healthier lives, in and outside the workplace.
By immersing themselves in this process, lawyers prove that corporate wellness is a catchall for involvement by a multitude of professionals, from doctors and nurses to nutritionists and naturopathic physicians, from athletes and attorneys, too.
The process itself allows companies to ensure their standards comply with the law while giving their employees the information necessary to succeed.
According to Wayne R. Cohen, a professor at The George Washington University School of Law and a partner at Cohen & Cohen, P.C., lawyers are (to a degree) unofficial wellness counselors. He says:
To counsel is to not only advise but to advocate on behalf of a client for whom your insight can provide much-needed peace of mind. Transferring that skill from the courtroom to the boardroom, so a lawyer can collaborate with a company and better complement a wellness plan, benefits everyone. The more inclusive this dialogue is, the more effective companies will be.
As a non-practicing lawyer, who also happens to write about healthcare and the importance of corporate wellness, I applaud Cohen's analysis. I think his proposal shows how dynamic the legal profession is, in comparison to the one-dimensional caricature of lawyers as too aggressive and innately adversarial.
If anything, we need more lawyers to educate workers about their rights-and we will always need lawyers to confirm companies do the right thing. A lawyer who reviews a wellness plan is, therefore, someone who advances the legal health of a business as much as he accelerates the pace of change among all businesses; he is an agent of change, whose expertise does more to align a plan with the law than it would do so without him; whose goal, regardless of which side he represents, is to verify a company is in the right by honoring the rights of its employees.
This approach is proactive because it establishes a precedent for executives to follow and workers to emulate. It broadens the definition of what it means for a company itself to initiate-in words and deeds-policies that can lower medical and insurance costs, increase productivity, and improve morale between management and labor.
This approach is also a chance to highlight the field of healthcare law in general. As robust, professionally, as it is rigorous, intellectually, this discipline illustrates how much material a lawyer must master and how many subjects any such practitioner must synthesize-from regulatory requirements to scientific studies, as well as news about clinical trials to trying cases before a judge and jury.
Let us welcome the development of this newest chapter in an ongoing report about health and innovation.
Let us do so with respect for the integrity of corporate wellness and the safety of workers nationwide.
About the author
Lewis Fein is a writer and a health care advocate, as well as a volunteer for patients battling various autoimmune diseases. Based in Southern California, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.