In Midst Of Financial Crisis, Wisconsin Union Sued For Viagra!

Milwaukee teachers union files suit over lack of Viagra coverage

8/6/2010 The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association has filed a civil suit claiming that MPS’ exclusion of Viagra and other drugs that treat erectile dysfunction from its health insurance plans constitutes sexual discrimination against male employees.

Last September, an administrative law judge dismissed an earlier ruling that sided with the union, which filed an equal rights complaint in 2008. The state’s Labor and Industry Review Commission upheld the decision in June.

The union now seeks a review of that decision by a Milwaukee County circuit court judge.

“This is an issue of discrimination, of equal rights for all our members,” said Kristin Collett, spokeswoman for the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.

According to documents contained in the MTEA lawsuit filed last month:

MPS first agreed to cover drugs that treat erectile dysfunction in 2002. By 2004, there were 1,002 claims for such drugs from MPS employees. During negotiations with the union for its 2003-2005 contract, MPS tried to stop coverage of the drugs, citing rising costs. An arbitrator sided with the district in 2005.

In 2008, the teachers’ union filed a charge with the state’s Equal Rights Division, complaining that not offering the drug violated the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act.

“The exclusion of an FDA approved, medically necessary drug from an otherwise comprehensive pharmacy plan violates Wisconsin’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex,” the union argued.

Lawyers for the union claimed that because treatment for female sexual dysfunction such as vaginal cream and estrogen replacement medication is covered, the removal of Viagra from the health plan unfairly disadvantaged male employees.

The school district has countered that the elimination was a cost-saving measure and non-discriminatory because the drugs are mainly recreational.

Setting aside both arguments, a judge and later the Labor and Industry Review Commission dismissed the suit, ruling that MTEA, by acting collectively for its members, did not offer proof that any specific individuals had experienced discrimination, and that the statute of limitations for discrimination suits had passed.

Collett said she was aware of at least one member who had formally complained about the lack of Viagra coverage, but that the MTEA was not seeking relief for an individual member. Rather, she said, it is seeking to stop a discriminatory policy for all members.

The question the union is waiting to have answered, Collett said, is whether the MTEA has the right to bring the case forward.

Collett said that if the union is successful with this appeal, the case will go back to an administrative law judge at the Equal Rights Division, who will decide whether MPS can discriminate on prescription drug coverage.

Some, including at least one state lawmaker, have criticized the union for asking the district to cover Viagra instead of using money to save teacher jobs. The district laid off 482 teachers in June, though it later recalled 89.

A consultant for the School Board has estimated that reinstating the drug benefit would cost $786,000 per year – the cost to keep perhaps a dozen first-year teachers employed.

Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) argues that the money could be better spent any number of ways – including saving jobs.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Fields said. “The fact that is the point of contention is kind of frightening. What are our priorities? I’m all for love and peace. But almost $1 million? And you go to court over this issue?”

Collett said the union is able to handle multiple priorities. (???)

“The MTEA and MPS are grappling with many issues at this time,” she said in a statement. “We continue to devote time, attention, and resources to the issue of layoffs and working with the new administration.”

For its part, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors seems to have left the issue to its lawyers.

Board President Michael Bonds said Friday in an interview that he had not heard of the case and that it had not come up for discussion at any full board or finance committee meetings he had attended.

“It’s news to me,” Bonds said.

Staff writer Erin Richards and The Associated Press contributed to this report

http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/100170484.html

~LTG

6 responses to “In Midst Of Financial Crisis, Wisconsin Union Sued For Viagra!

  1. I just told my 84-year old mother about this case. She said, “If they can’t get it up, let them buy their own damn Viagra!”

  2. I guess they need more oomph when they are screwing the taxpayers.

    And what about the students?

    -Dave

  3. That’s what they get for supporting Democrats and healthcare reform… they apparently wanted that.

  4. Here’s a little spin… By the looks of the pent up frustration displayed by the folks, I say give them all the V they need. Apparently, its been ages since any of them have had sex.

    My real thoughts on the subject… If you don’t pay into a health care system, you don’t receive any health care benefits. If you are paying in, a desire is not a necessity. I would really like to get lasik surgery so I don’t have to wear reading glasses any longer, but my insurance (expectantly) doesn’t cover it.

    However, if I was given the choice of ditching the eye glasses or having sex… I can live with the grandpa glasses.

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