Employees filed a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. charging that the company was violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by not providing insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives. Wal-Mart’s employee benefit plan covers other prescription drugs and devices. Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that an employer’s failure to cover prescription contraceptives while covering other prescription drugs was unlawful sex discrimination. This ruling was upheld in Erickson v. Bartell Drug Co. by a federal court in Seattle in June 2001.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, counsel on the Wal-Mart case, women spend seventy percent more money out-of-pocket on medical costs than men. Most of the additional costs are attributable to reproductive health services. Almost half of all fee-for-service insurance plans do not cover prescription contraceptives, and over sixty percent of HMO plans refuse to cover the most commonly used contraceptives, including birth control pills, IUDs, Norplant, diaphragms, and Depo-Provera.