Saturday, March 2, 2024

Second Nurse Practitioner Sues CVS for Denying Longstanding Religious Accommodation

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A second Christian nurse practitioner has sued CVS Health alleging the company fired her after revoking a longstanding religious accommodation because of her Catholic beliefs about certain contraceptives.

First Liberty Institute, the law firm Boyden Gray & Associates, and the law firm Lawson Huck Gonzalez, PLLC, filed a federal lawsuit against the company on Jan. 18 on behalf of Gunna Kristofersdottir. 

Kristofersdottir, a nurse practitioner employed by a CVS MinuteClinic in Tequesta, Florida, was granted a religious accommodation from prescribing contraception from 2014 to 2022. During that period, on a few occasions, if a patient asked for such a prescription, she referred them to another CVS MinuteClinic provider who satisfied the request, according to First Liberty. 

As CBN News has reported, in August 2021, CVS suddenly announced it was revoking all religious accommodations that allowed providers to refrain from prescribing pregnancy-prevention drugs.

Kristofersdottir has worked for more than 20 years as a nurse practitioner and holds an M.S. in Nursing from the University of Nevada and a B.S. in Nursing from the University of Iceland. She was notified by her supervisor in March 2022 that CVS would no longer honor her religious accommodation for hormonal contraceptives. The supervisor said that others who had previously received a comparable accommodation had chosen to forego their religious rights to keep their employment with CVS. 

The company “gave Kristofersdottir two weeks to affirm that she would prescribe all contraceptives available at CVS, or she would be terminated,” the 21-page complaint said. 

“CVS subsequently revoked Ms. Kristofersdottir’s religious accommodation, refusing to consider her particular circumstances or even discuss possible alternative accommodations,” according to the complaint. 

“CVS could have accommodated Ms. Kristofersdottir in several ways, including by transferring her to a virtual position, a larger clinic, an education or training position, or a location specializing in COVID-19, or continuing to honor the religious accommodation that worked successfully for years. CVS’s policy of preemptively denying all such requests regardless of individual circumstances is unlawful and has a disparate impact on its employees on the basis of religion,” her attorneys argued in the complaint. 

“After accommodating Gunna for several years, CVS fired her because it simply did not like her religious beliefs,” First Liberty Institute Stephanie Taub said. “It is illegal to issue a blanket revocation of all religious accommodations when CVS can accommodate its employees. CVS is sending a message that religious health care workers are not welcome and need not apply.” 

“Our employment laws protect religious freedom in the workplace,” noted Jonathan Berry, managing partner at Boyden Gray PLLC and former head of rulemaking at the U.S. Department of Labor. “No one should have to choose between her faith and her job, especially where it would be easy to continue a longstanding religious accommodation.”

In her complaint, Kristofersdottir demanded a trial by jury.

CBN News reached out to Mike DeAngelis, CVS Health’s executive director of Corporate Communications for comment.

“We continue to enhance our MinuteClinic services, growing from providing urgent care to offering more holistic care. Educating and treating patients regarding sexual health matters – including pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted infection prevention, and safer sex practices are essential functions of the position,” DeAngelis said in an emailed statement. “While we are not able to comment on a specific complaint pending in litigation, we have a well-defined process in place for employees to request and be granted a reasonable accommodation due to their religious beliefs unless it poses an undue hardship on the business and our ability to provide convenient, accessible care to our patients.” 

Lawsuit Against CVS Filed in 2023 by a Former Texas Employee

As CBN News reported in January 2023,  First Liberty and Boyden Gray filed a similar federal lawsuit against CVS Health on behalf of Robyn Strader, a Christian nurse practitioner in Texas. Strader also claimed she was terminated by the company because she sought a religious accommodation from prescribing contraception – an accommodation the company had granted her for the previous six years.

In Strader’s complaint, attorneys state, “In addition to prospectively preempting all requests for religious accommodations, CVS unlawfully derided Ms. Strader’s religious beliefs, pressured her to change her beliefs, refused to consider her multiple requests for a religious accommodation, failed to engage with her about possible accommodations, and terminated her because of her religious beliefs.”

As we reported in February 2022, First Liberty Institute filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against CVS Pharmacy for their action. 

On Oct. 31, 2021, CVS terminated Strader for not prescribing contraceptives. After she was fired, the company claimed she never requested a religious accommodation and that accommodating her would cause CVS an undue hardship, according to the EEOC complaint. 

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