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A federal judge in Atlanta has granted class action status to a lawsuit that claims Wal-Mart’s denial of health insurance coverage for birth control is unfair to female employees. U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes said Friday that all women working for the nation’s largest retailer after March 2001 could pursue claims against the company if they were using prescription contraceptives. Lisa Smith Mauldin, a customer-service manager at a Wal-Mart store in Hiram, Ga., filed the lawsuit in October asking the court to declare the company’s health plan illegal and to order Wal-Mart to reimburse her and other employees for uninsured prescription contraceptives. Her lawyer, George Stein, called the judge’s decision to grant class action status “a major victory for the working women of America.” “A lot of working women in this country are single and have children and have to pinch their pennies to make ends meet,” he said. He said the company saves about $5 million a month by denying birth control coverage. Wal-Mart attorney Mark Casciari noted that the judge had yet to address the merits of the lawsuit and had declined to include male Wal-Mart employees whose spouses use birth control. “For that reason, I don’t see this as a major victory for anybody,” Casciari told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The company is reviewing the ruling and hasn’t decided whether to appeal, Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz said Saturday. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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