Rockland employees union files suit against county

Employee pharmacy for Rockland County workers at the

Employee pharmacy for Rockland County workers at the Dr. Robert L. Yeager Health Center in Pomona. (Feb. 1, 2013) Photo Credit: Sarah Armaghan

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The Rockland County employees union sued the county Friday, accusing County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef of breaking the law when he abolished an employee pharmacy.

Attorneys for the Civil Service Employees of America union submitted the documents in Rockland County Supreme Court, seeking to reopen the pharmacy at the Dr. Robert L. Yeager Health Center in Pomona that shut its doors earlier in the day.

"We spoke with County Executive Vanderhoef after he announced the pharmacy closure, to remind him of the existing county laws providing for the pharmacy benefit and to give him the chance to put a stop to his plan," CSEA Southern Region president Billy Riccaldo said in a statement.

"His refusal to obey these particular laws has forced us to pursue legal action to ensure CSEA's active members and retirees regain access to a benefit guaranteed to them under law."

The cash-strapped county has picked up the tab for the co-pays for all county employees and retirees for the past 36 years -- a benefit that amounted to a $2 million bill. More than 2,300 people, including hundreds of retirees, will now be forced to use conventional pharmacies and pay anywhere from $5 to $90 for their prescriptions, depending on the medicine and their health care plans.

In addition to reopening the pharmacy and reinstating co-pays, the union is also requesting that reimbursements be made for medication expenses that employees will rack up while the pharmacy is closed.

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The county agreed to the free prescription 36 years ago when the union agreed to purchase its own workers' compensation coverage, CSEA spokeswoman Jessica Ladlee said.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Rockland County Attorney Jeffrey Fortunato said he had not yet received the lawsuit.

Noting "clear and unequivocal language" in the collective bargaining agreement between the county and the CSEA, Fortunato relayed that management has "broad discretion" when it comes to decisions involving program terminations.

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"Accordingly, the county may take unilateral action without prior negotiation with the union," the statement read.

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