WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued a Commission Decision finding merit in two charges of discrimination alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The Commission based its decision on the grounds that the respondents in the charges excluded the cost of prescription contraceptive drugs - available only to women - from their employee health plan while covering a number of other preventive drugs, devices, and services. The plan also covers surgical sterilization for both men and women as well as Viagra.
The charging parties sought to use contraceptives both for birth control and other medical purposes.
The Commission concluded that the respondents' plan violates the Pregnancy Discrimination Act's prohibition against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy. Enacted by Congress in 1978, the law requires equal treatment of women "affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions" in all aspects of employment, including fringe benefits. It protects women from discrimination because they have the ability to become pregnant, and not just because they are already pregnant. The Commission also concluded that the exclusion constitutes prohibited sex discrimination since prescription contraceptives are available only for women.
Commenting on the EEOC's mandate to enforce federal laws prohibiting sex-discriminatory terms and conditions of employment, EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro said, "The selective exclusion of health coverage for prescription contraceptives by this employee health plan violates the law since it covers a number of comparable prescription drugs and other services."
A Commission Decision is a formal Commission determination as to whether there is reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination has occurred with respect to a specific charge or charges. Based on the confidentiality provisions of Title VII, the Commission cannot release the identities of either the charging parties or the respondents. A Question and Answer document on the decision, along with the full text of the Commission Decision, will be available shortly on the Commission's Web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on December 13, 2000.
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