The Associated Press
4/23/01 10:25 PM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A flight attendant filed federal discrimination charges against American Airlines on Monday, saying her employee health plan does not cover reproductive care for women but provides Viagra for men.
Martina Alexander said after being refused coverage for infertility treatments in 1999 she learned her health plan does not cover pap smears or birth control pills -- but does cover Viagra for impotent male employees.
"I realized that females didn't seem to be treated as though they were as important as men," said Alexander, 36, a flight attendant since 1987.
In a claim filed Monday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, attorney Gloria Allred contended that American's policy constitutes sex, pregnancy and disability discrimination.
Gus Whitcomb, a spokesman for the 110,000-employee airline, said American's three basic employee health plans cover all "medically necessary" procedures or medications. That can include drugs, such as Viagra, prescribed by a physician to treat male impotence.
The claim is similar to those in a lawsuit a Seattle woman filed in July against the drugstore chain she works for.
Women's groups have appealed to Congress and state legislatures to require health insurance companies to cover contraception, but only a handful of states have laws on the books, and those cover only state-regulated insurance plans.
In December, the EEOC found that excluding contraceptives from health plans discriminates against women, although the decision directly affected only two women.