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EEOC takes sides in ‘the pill v. the pope’ battle

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in Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Maternity Leave Laws

The EEOC has filed suit against Belmont Abbey College, a Catholic-run institution in Belmont, claiming the college’s refusal to provide coverage for birth control in its employee health plan violates the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

The college maintains that because contraception is contrary to the church doctrine, it should not be required to pay for it.

Several of Belmont Abbey’s female employees filed the suit against the college, claiming the college’s refusal to cover contraception violated both state and federal laws. The state dismissed the lawsuit, noting that North Carolina law provides an exception for religious institutions.

In March, the EEOC ruled Belmont’s plan complied with federal law, but in August the commission reversed its position and allowed the suit to go forward.

EEOC guidance states that any health benefit plan that covers any prescriptions must also cover contraceptives. That position has not been tested in court. Further, it is not clear whether institutions affiliated with a religion are subject to federal employment laws.

North Carolina exempts institutions whose main purpose is “the inculcation of religious values” and that employ “primarily persons who share the [institution’s] religious tenets.”

The state court ruling exempted Belmont Abbey even though most of its employees are not Catholic. The matter is now headed to court.

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