Victory in Sex Discrimination Complaints Brought by NWLC: After Investigation by HHS, Employers Change Policies

(Washington, D.C.) In response to sex discrimination complaints filed by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, four institutions have ended their discriminatory policies that barred insurance coverage for maternity care for employees’ dependents. The four institutions are based in Alabama, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington State.

NWLC filed the complaints in June 2013, and OCR closed its investigations on the last full day of the Obama Administration. NWLC brought the complaints under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, the first federal law to bar sex discrimination in health care programs that receive federal funds.

The institutions cited in the complaints that have now changed their policies are:

  • Battelle Memorial Institute, a research and development organization based in Columbus, Ohio, with over 22,000* employees in more than 100 locations globally, including many across the U.S.
  • Auburn University, a public university in Auburn, Alabama with over 4,500 full-time non-student employees.
  • Gonzaga University, a private university located in Spokane, Washington with 1,000 faculty and non-faculty employees.
  • The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), located in Harrisburg, PA, is “a public corporation and government instrumentality” consisting of fourteen public universities across the state. PASSHE employs over 12,150 professional and support staff.

The following is a statement by Gretchen Borchelt, NWLC Vice President for Reproductive Rights and Health:

“Pregnancy coverage is an essential insurance benefit for women and to omit it is sex discrimination, pure and simple. The Affordable Care Act makes sex discrimination in health insurance coverage illegal. NWLC commends OCR for investigating these complaints, and the companies for changing their policies. The young women on these plans can now rest assured that they can get necessary prenatal care and deliver a baby without bankrupting their family. With all the talk of repealing the Affordable Care Act, it’s critical to remember how much the law has done to eliminate unfair insurance practices and protect the health, lives, and economic security of women across the country.”

*Employee data is based on 2013 statistics