Appeal from the Order of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in case of Virginia Davis v. Canon-McMillan School District, Docket No. E-4562P.
John E. Costello, for petitioner.
Katherine H. Fein, Assistant General Counsel, with her Sanford Kahn, General Counsel, for respondent.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Wilkinson, Jr. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Mencer.
The issue in this case is whether the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (Commission) erred in finding that petitioner unlawfully discriminated on the basis of sex against complainant and 68 other female employees by failing to provide the same degree of contributions to their health insurance plans when they did not specify that they were "heads of households," as it did for male employees who did so specify. We find no error.
Complainant and the 68 other employees were employed by petitioner during the 1971-72 and/or the 1972-73 school years. Pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement in effect during those years, petitioner held a master hospitalization, medical and major medical insurance contract and offered each employee a choice of coverage plans thereunder. Petitioner was to make full contribution of the premiums for such plans, including "family" coverage, a designation of the insurer which included maternity benefits. On questionnaires by which each employee could select the coverage he or she desired, petitioner also asked whether the employee was a "head of household," which petitioner's superintendent explained was to be determined by how the employee had answered the inquiry for income tax purposes.*fn1 Petitioner then classified the employees in coverage categories based upon the responses.
Although petitioner did not question any employee's choice of coverage or designation as "head of household," petitioner also did not reveal that its degree of contribution for "family" coverage was in fact dependent upon the employee's response to the "head of household" inquiry. Petitioner paid the full premium for employees who requested "family" coverage if they specified that they were "heads of households" and not covered by a spouse's health insurance plan, but did not pay the full premium for employees who requested such coverage and specified that they were not "heads of households," even though they, too, indicated that they were not covered by a spouse's plan. Instead, petitioner paid only for "single" (individual) coverage for such employees and deducted the difference between "single" and
"family" premiums from their pay. Petitioner's rationale for this practice was that the family of an employee who did not designate himself or herself as a "head of household" was presumably covered by the health plan held elsewhere by the other spouse (i.e., the "head of household") even though the employee individually was not so covered. Therefore, petitioner reasoned, any premiums it paid beyond that required for coverage of the employee alone would result in needless duplication of payments for "family" coverage (for which only one recovery could be made).*fn2 Petitioner did not, however, explain its practice or the significance of the "head of household" designation to the employees, even though 1971-72 was the first year in which it was to make full contribution for "family" coverage available.
Complainant requested "family" coverage and noted that her husband was self-employed and not covered by another plan. She indicated, however, that she was not a "head of household." Petitioner therefore paid only her premium for "single" coverage and deducted the "family" coverage differential. Upon discovering the deductions, complainant filed a complaint with the Commission, alleging that petitioner's practice constituted unlawful discrimination against female employees on the basis of sex in violation of Section 5(a) ...