Advocate Health Care in Illinois and St. Peter's Healthcare System in New Jersey want the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on whether their pension plans should be exempt from certain federal protections for workers.
The systems argue that because of their religious affiliations, their employee pension plans should not be subject to the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act that requires pension plans be insured and fully funded.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against faith-based organizations over the issue, including 22 in the past four months. Those lawsuits target some of the nation's largest health systems.
If the lower courts' decisions stand, many religious organizations will have to renegotiate contracts with employees, revamp benefit structures, redesign pension funding policies and redo their budgets, Advocate and St. Peter's say.
Those on the other side of the cases, however, argue faith-based systems have dodged their responsibilities to employees. Many pension plans are underfunded, said Karen Handorf, a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, who is representing those who challenged Advocate and St. Peter's.