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Hospital operator settles employee pension case for $350 million

SEATTLE — A Renton-based health care system has agreed to pay more than $350 million to settle a class-action lawsuit over its employee pension plan.

Our news partner The Seattle Times reports that two nurses had brought the suit against Providence Health & Services in 2014, claiming it failed to fully fund retirement plans for its 73,000 employees.

The case was built around the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which regulates how private pension plans are funded. Providence, a Catholic health care ministry, had argued that it was exempt from the law because of its church status.

Providence eventually agreed to the settlement after a separate case in San Francisco resulted in two court rulings that said a health care system couldn’t claim church exemption.

Providence, which operates health care facilities in five Western states, has denied any wrongdoing in the agreement.