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Keller Rohrback Announces Important Victory for Women: Class Action Suit Wins Contraception Coverage for Female Employees of Bartell Drug Company.

Business Editors/Legal Writers


In a groundbreaking decision, United States District Judge Robert S. Lasnik ruled today that it is illegal discrimination for an employer to exclude coverage of prescription contraception if it provides coverage for other prescription medications and devices.

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Jennifer Erickson, a Seattle-area pharmacist and non-union employee, sued her employer -- Bartell Drug Co. -- seeking prescription contraception coverage as a benefit of employment under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination in all aspects of employment. Ms. Erickson's case was certified as a class action, which means that today's ruling benefits both Ms. Erickson and all other Bartell non-union employees.

According to Seattle attorney David Copley, "This decision demonstrates how class actions can help vindicate important legal interests. While it may seem almost impossible for a single employee to stand up for her rights, a class action allows lots of individuals to band together in seeking justice."

Judge Lasnik called today's ruling "an issue of first impression," which means that it is the first time this issue has been decided by a federal court. As Judge Lasnik held:

-- "Bartell's prescription drug plan discriminates against

Bartell's female employees by providing less complete coverage

than that offered to male employees. Although the plan covers

almost all drugs and devices used by men, the exclusion of

prescription contraceptives creates a gaping hole in the

coverage offered to female employees, leaving a fundamental

and immediate healthcare need uncovered. . . . Title VII

requires employers to recognize the differences between the

sexes and provide equally comprehensive coverage, even if that

means providing additional benefits to cover women-only


This opinion follows last year's similar decision by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which held that the exclusion of prescription contraception from an otherwise-comprehensive health plan violates Title VII.

Plaintiffs in this case were represented by Seattle lawyers Roberta Riley (Planned Parenthood of Western Washington), Lynn Lincoln Sarko, T. David Copley and Gretchen Freeman Cappio (Keller Rohrback LLP). Other members of the legal team include Eve. C. Gartner and Donna Lee (Planned Parenthood Federation of America), Marcia D. Greenberger, Judith C. Applebaum, Barbara A. Burr and Dina R. Lassow (National Women's Law Center).

Attorney Gretchen Freeman Cappio stated, "This decision is a landmark in American law. It is a privilege to represent Jennifer Erickson and to work with the talented lawyers of Planned Parenthood of Western Washington, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the National Women's Law Center."
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 12, 2001
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