CVS nurse fired for religious beliefs: lawsuit

CVS Pharmacy
People walk in front of a CVS pharmacy in New York City on January 24, 2019. |

A major pharmacy chain is denying allegations of wrongdoing as it faces another lawsuit for firing an employee who refused to prescribe pro-abortion drugs, in violation of her deeply held religious beliefs.

In a lawsuit obtained by The Christian Post, former CVS nurse Suzanne Schuler alleges that her former employer fired her because of her religious beliefs. The complaint, filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, found that Schuler had worked as a registered nurse at CVS MinuteClinics in and around Olathe, Kansas, from 2009 to 2021.

Operated by CVS, MinuteClinics provides patients with “non-emergency medical care on an appointment and walk-in basis.” According to the lawsuit, Schuler’s Christian beliefs “prohibit her from providing, prescribing, or facilitating the use of any medication, device, or surgical procedure that may result in an abortion — including drugs such as certain hormonal contraceptives, Plan B, and Ella.”

Schuler successfully secured religious exemptions from a 2011 requirement that nurses refill contraceptive prescriptions and a 2015 change to her job description requiring them to prescribe contraceptives, including abortion-inducing drugs.

The complaint states: “Nothing has changed in the job description of a registered nurse according to CVS’ job listing for that position in 2021, and nothing in the 2021 job description added other obligations that did not exist in the previously published job description.” It is alleged that MinuteClinic “abruptly stopped respecting Ms. Schuler’s religious beliefs in September 2021 and fired her on October 31, 2021 for refusing to prescribe abortion-causing drugs.”

The complaint clarified that “the only thing that changed in 2021 was that CVS designated the provision of counseling and counseling on contraceptives, abortifacients and other birth control options as ‘essential functions’.”

The lawsuit asks a federal court to grant Schuler’s request for “compensation, including lost wages and benefits and wages resulting from her termination, unpaid lost wages for wrongful dismissal or dismissal, back pay, reinstatement or advance payment, prejudice and convict interest, punitive damages and punitive damages, including but not limited to damages for pain and suffering, psychological and emotional distress, suffering and anxiety, wage cuts, expenses, costs and other damages.

Before filing the lawsuit, Schuler filed a complaint of discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Commission. MinuteClinic responded to the EEOC complaint in a March 4 statement, writing: “MinuteClinic terminated the complainant’s employment after determining that it could no longer excuse her from performing those essential professional duties without unduly hardship on its business operations bring to.”

“MinuteClinic’s business model has transformed from a retail or acute care model to a more holistic healthcare service model. The new holistic healthcare model is designed to create consistent relationships with patients, much like a community health center. Therefore, it was imperative that nurses like the applicant were willing and able to treat a wide variety of medical conditions, including counseling and advising on contraceptives, abortifacients and other birth control options, and prescribing such medications.”

The statement insisted that Schuler “often, if not always, would have been the only nurse available to provide such patient care, including writing contraceptive prescriptions,” that the only way to accommodate her religious beliefs , “therefore would have been to turn away patients seeking such services, refer them to another business and/or inform patients to return to another doctor in the same clinic another day.”

The response to the EEOC complaint repeatedly cited the “new business model” as the rationale for its decision to no longer accommodate Schuler’s religious beliefs, stressing that her “claim that MinuteClinic allowed her to turn patients away in previous years is irrelevant there.” is where it is. Business requirements had changed.” The document asked EEOC to dismiss Schuler’s claims for “lack of probable cause,” suggesting that “the complainant will not be able to demonstrate that MinuteClinic was involved in discriminatory behavior”.

The complaint, filed in federal court on Wednesday, pushes back on the idea that Schuler’s failure to provide contraceptives constituted undue hardship on her employer’s business model: “There were no complaints from employees, patients or supervisors while their housing was in place or at any time.” during their employment with the defendants. Ms. Schuler’s work was outstanding and she had no performance issues throughout her dealings with the defendants.”

In addition, the lawsuit states that the MinuteClinic, where Schuler primarily worked, “was not manned on a daily basis to provide all services to a client (except those that Ms. Schuler was unable to perform)” and that “there were services which required both a nurse and a doctor and a [registered nurse/licensed practical nurse.]The complaint addressed the staffing of MinuteClinics in the Olathe area.

“In the past, CVS clinics have not been staffed in such a way that an RN/LPN was on duty at the same time as a nurse. There were not enough RN/LPN applicants. For the Kansas metro area, generally only three out of 10 or 11 CVS clinics had an RN/LPN assigned by CVS that did not cover the entire day of operation or all seven days of the week.”

Schuler’s case isn’t the first time CVS has been taken to court over a Christian nurse who was fired for refusing to dispense birth control. Paige Casey, a Catholic nurse in Virginia, and Robyn Strader, a nurse in Texas, made similar allegations in a lawsuit and an EEOC complaint, respectively. Wednesday’s lawsuit contains references to the other two nurses.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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