Court OKs UP's Benefits Plan

The 8th Circuit ruled March 15 that an employee health plan that provides prescription drug coverage for Viagra but not for birth control does not violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) or Title VII.

Female employees of Union Pacific Railroad launched a class action in a Nebraska district court in 2003, claiming the railroad's failure to offer coverage for prescription contraceptives violated employment discrimination laws. The district court ruled in the plaintiffs' favor in 2005, reasoning that a drug plan that treats the medical care women need to prevent pregnancy less favorably than the medical care needed to prevent less serious conditions, such as erectile dysfunction, runs afoul of Title VII.

Union Pacific argued on appeal that Title VII only required them to treat men and women "the same," and that denying contraceptive coverage to all employees satisfied that standard. The 8th Circuit agreed with that analysis and further held that the PDA does not require employer health plans to provide coverage for drugs or procedures that could prevent pregnancy.

"We hold that contraception is not 'related to' pregnancy for PDA purposes," the court wrote, "because ?? 1/2 contraception is a treatment that is only indicated prior to pregnancy."

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