MacIver News Service | June 6, 2011
[Milwaukee...] In March, it was announced with much fanfare that the Milwaukee teachers’ union was dropping it’s controversial Viagra lawsuit against MPS.
However, the MacIver News Service has learned that the effort to force MPS to provide coverage for erectile dysfunction treatments has arisen again, albeit in a different venue.
The Milwaukee Teachers Education Association’s (MTEA) decision earlier this year came just eight months after filing their August of 2010 suit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court wherein they argued that the board’s policy of excluding erectile dysfunction drugs from their health plan coverage was discriminatory against men.
In December of last year MPS employee Henry Sampson filed a complaint with the Equal Rights Division of the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development, arguing that excluding coverage for the gender-specific diagnosis of erectile dysfunction violated the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA).
At this time it is unknown whether union officials were aware of Sampson’s pending complaint with the State when they dropped their lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.
On May 4th, the Equal Rights Division found that there was probable cause to believe the Milwaukee Board of School Directors violated the WFEA and discriminated against Sampson on the basis of his sex.
“The Equal Rights Division found reason to believe there is sufficient information to hold an administrative hearing,” the DWD wrote in their determination letter.
A hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is pending in the matter.
The 49-year-old Sampson is a teacher at MPS who, according to the WIOpenGov.org online database, saw his compensation package rise by more than $9,000 this past year. Sampson made $72,913 in 2010. Along with a benefits package valued at $46,411 his total annual compensation is $119,324.
According to the probable cause determination, MPS argued that the ED drugs are marketed to enhance sexual performance, rather than to treat underlying physiological conditions. Further, MPS argued that both men and women can have sexual dysfunction so not covering drugs for that condition does not show bias.
The stakes are high for Wisconsin’s largest school district.
Documents on the case show that MPS claimed that their costs more than doubled for ED related medication between 2002 and 2004. By that year the Milwaukee Public School District was spending in excess of $200,000 a year on the drugs for its employees, a cost they said they couldn’t afford to keep up.
MPS is currently in the process of laying off upwards of 400 teachers for budgetary reasons.