Federal judge approves Ascension Health's $29.5M settlement in class-action pension lawsuit

Ascension Health, a Catholic health system based in St. Louis, will pay $29.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging the health system and subsidiary Wheaton Franciscan Services in Glendale, Wis., violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which governs employee pensions.

The lawsuit, filed in April 2016, alleged Wheaton erroneously treated its pension plan as a "church plan" exempt from ERISA.

The parties entered a class-action settlement agreement Sept. 1, 2017, and the court preliminarily approved the settlement Sept. 13, 2017. The court gave final approval to the proposed settlement after holding a fairness hearing on Jan. 16.

The parties inked the settlement agreement about three months after the U.S. Supreme Court held church-affiliated hospitals do not have to comply with ERISA.

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