Complaint Alleges Employer Health Care Plans Unlawfully Discriminate Against Pregnant Dependents in New York and Across the U.S.
The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) recently filed a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights against a number of both public and private employers over alleged violations of the Affordable Care Act. According to the complaint, the group claims the employers failed to provide adequate maternity coverage to the female dependents of workers in violation of the law. The NWLC alleges this failure effectively results in sex discrimination as it treats pregnant women as a different class and provides them with an inferior level of health care when compared to male dependents.
The NWLC claims Section 1557 of the Act requires health care plans to cover the costs associated with pregnancy for not only insured employees, but also their dependents. The Section states discrimination is not allowed for any health care program that receives federal money. Auburn University, Battelle Memorial Institute, Beacon Health System, Gonzaga University and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are accused of discrimination because many of the health plans offered to workers exclude maternity coverage from the insurance provided to dependent children. The five organizations reportedly employ a combined total of nearly 44,000 workers.
If the NWLC is successful, the health insurance coverage required under the law may be expanded. According to NWLC Co-President Marcia Greenberger, the issue is important because the health care plans are meeting men's needs regardless of their dependency status. Pregnant women, on the other hand, are allegedly being discriminated against in certain situations. She also stated the issue is especially significant because the Act allows dependent children to remain on a parent's health care plan until age 26 whether or not they are married. Data from the nation's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reportedly claims the average age for a woman in the United States to give birth to her first child in 2010 was 25.4 years.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 requires institutions with more than 15 employees to provide maternity benefits for workers and their spouses. The law does not require maternity coverage for an employee's children. Each year, an estimated 2.4 million women under age 25 allegedly give birth across the U.S.
Employers in New York and throughout the nation are forbidden from discriminating against an employee based on pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to a pregnancy. Still, pregnancy discrimination occurs frequently and can take many forms. If you feel you were the victim of pregnancy discrimination at work, you are advised to contact a quality attorney.