Contraceptive Equity — IAPE At 80

Remembering Key People And Events In Our Union's History

As we celebrate the 80th anniversary of IAPE, we'll take an occasional look back at key moments in our Union's history. Follow along with our #IAPEat80 series here.

Today, we look back at the beginning and the end of a successful campaign to push Dow Jones to finally include contraceptive coverage in all their healthcare plans. The Union first announced plans to pursue contraceptive coverage in September of 2001. Sixteen months later, following charges from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dow Jones agreed to contraceptive equity for its employees.


From The IAPE Newsletter, September 2001

Health Plan Pays for VIAGRA


A federal district court ruled in June that it was discriminatory for U.S. employers to provide comprehensive prescription drug benefits, while excluding payment for prescription contraceptives, such as birth control pills, injections or other FDA approved birth control methods. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also ruled in December that an employer's failure to cover prescription contraceptives in an employee health benefits plan constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

While all of our health plans currently insure Viagra, as well as other preventative medicines, birth control coverage for Dow Jones' female employees is only offered through some of the company's less desirable HMO insurance programs. This affects many Dow Jones' workers: union and non-union, managers and their employees, women and men with female spouses or children.

The Union in June sought to cure this inequity and requested that the company add prescriptive contraceptive coverage to ALL of its health plans in light of the recent federal rulings.

Company officials have since dragged their feet on the issue. We've been awaiting their "any-day-now" response for nearly two months. They now suggest that the issue (which they estimate will cost the company "tens of thousands of dollars") is best left for contract negotiations, which begin in March. In other words, they want us to give up something in exchange for what is rightfully ours under the law.

We don't think that's fair. Do you?

The Union, and a handful of women, are considering filing a formal complaint with the EEOC. We've met with attorneys there, and they are anxious to open an investigation into a possible claim against Dow Jones.

Other civil rights attorneys also think we may have a strong case and are interested in pursuing action with us. We are fully ready to take on this fight. BUT WE ARE NOT GOING TO PURSUE ANYTHING IF IT'S NOT SOMETHING OUR MEMBERSHIP CARES DEEPLY ABOUT.

We need to know if our members — both female and male — support pursuing action on this issue. We also need other women, who DO NOT have to be union members, to join this fight.

Please email or call IAPE Health Care Committee members Dawn Kopecki or Barbara Martinez if you support this cause. We welcome any ideas on how we can make the company fully understand our feelings on this issue.


Press release issued by our parent Union, the Communications Workers of America, January 1, 2003

Dow Jones Settles EEOC Charges, Agrees to Cover Contraceptives

January 1, 2003

Employees at the Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones entities now have prescription birth control coverage in all medical plans the media company offers, the latest victory in The Newspaper Guild-CWA's campaign for contraceptive equity.

Three members of the Independent Association of Publishers' Employees, TNG-CWA Local 1096, had filed suit against Dow Jones with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, charging that failing to cover contraceptives was a matter of sex discrimination.

"Fairness dictates that it be covered," TNG-CWA President Linda Foley said. "If all participants' health needs are going to be treated equally in a health plan, that has to include contraceptive coverage."

The EEOC ruled in 2000 that excluding contraceptives from health plans violates the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, a decision later upheld by a federal District Court judge in Washington state. Still, few companies are complying without pressure from unions.

Dow Jones had covered birth control in some of its health plans, but not in the one favored by most employees. In a settlement with CWA, Dow Jones has agreed to provide coverage for prescription contraceptives and related medical services in all of its medical plans.

Current and former employees and their covered dependents will also be reimbursed for the costs of contraceptives and related services dating back to Jan. 1, 2001. The company said it would immediately begin distributing the forms workers need to apply for reimbursement.

In a statement, Dow Jones said it decided to voluntarily change the coverage of its medical plans and settle the EEOC charges to avoid the costs of going to court and does not admit any violation of discrimination law. Based on the settlement, the EEOC charges have been withdrawn.

The Guild and CWA are continuing to work with employers and locals across the country to pursue contraceptive equity. Earlier this year, the union won birth control coverage for Associated Press workers, with the company settling just before an arbitration hearing. And Guild and CWA Printing Sector workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette negotiated contraception coverage in their new contract.

Leading CWA's efforts is Gloria Johnson, president of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, CWA women's and community services coordinator and a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council.

Johnson said the same employers that didn't make a peep about covering Viagra for men have been fighting against birth control coverage for women, even though studies show such coverage can save insurers money by reducing pregnancies.

"We're pleased that this matter has been resolved for our members and other women at Dow Jones, but we've got a long way to go to before we reach equity for millions of other women," she said.

Learn more about contraceptive equity on the Coalition of Labor Union Women website, Visitors can send a message to lawmakers urging them to support H.R. 1111, the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act.