Railroad Workers Take Contraceptive Coverage Battle to Court

March 5, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Three female workers at Union Pacific Corp. have sued the largest US railroad to try to force it to add contraception coverage to its healthcare plan.

In the federal suit filed in Portland, Oregon, the women alleged the company violated a section of the US Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlaws discrimination based on gender or pregnancy, according to a Reuters report. About 5% of Union Pacific’s 48,000 employees are women.

“There’s no use having prescription drug coverage if it singles out prescriptions that are unique to women,” one of the three named plaintiffs, Jackie Fitzgerald, 37, of La Grande, Oregon, told Reuters. “While I’m spending $38.99 a month at the local pharmacy for oral contraceptives, my male co-workers are contributing to their retirement funds.”

The suit also seeks reimbursement for prescription payments as well as punitive damages, claiming the company ignored requests for coverage. The suit also names as a defendant the United Transportation Union, which represented all three women.

Union Pacific said its health care package does not shortchange women, noting that it declines to cover treatments not deemed medically necessary, such as vasectomies for men, cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments or many weight-loss procedures. Lawyers for Planned Parenthood, who are leading the plaintiffs’ case, rejected the notion that contraception was not medically necessary for women, who otherwise face unwanted pregnancies.

According to Planned Parenthood, 20 states now require private insurance coverage for contraception. Union Pacific, which is self-insured, is not bound by such laws.

The contraceptive coverage issue is hardly a new one – being the subject of numerous lawsuits in the last several years (See Cover My Pills ).