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Dec 2 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear appeals by Christian-affiliated hospital systems of lower court rulings that gave the green light to employee lawsuits accusing them of wrongly claiming a religious exemption from federal pension law.
New Jersey-based St. Peter's Healthcare System, Illinois-based Advocate Health System and California-based Dignity Health each appealed separate federal appeals courts rulings that refused to throw out the employee lawsuits. The justices agreed to hear all three cases.
The employees in effect accuse the hospital systems of being big businesses posing as church organizations in order to avoid minimum funding and reporting requirements on employee pension plans mandated by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA.
The suits state that by claiming the exemption, the hospital systems are putting employee pension plans at risk. The hospital systems said allowing the lawsuits to go forward could jeopardize nonprofit hospitals' ability to provide care. (Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Will Dunham)