It’s a good thing the U.S. Supreme Court has now decided to hear an important case involving the rights of religious workers to reasonable accommodations of their beliefs and practices in the workplace. More and more woke corporations have targeted those beliefs for punishment, and the list of out-of-work Christians resulting from such practices is growing.
One such company is CVS, which owns more than 9,000 pharmacies in the U.S. Last year it revoked exemptions for employees with conscience objections to prescribing certain contraceptives and abortifacients. And just this month it applied for certification to dispense mifepristone, the abortion pill.
Two former employees of CVS are now suing the company for violating their rights to a religious accommodation of their beliefs. The first claims her termination was in violation of Title VII, the federal employment non-discrimination law, and the second alleges her termination violates a state conscience protection law.
J. Robyn Strader is a nurse practitioner who was hired by CVS in 2016 to run one of their Texas facilities, known as a “CVS MinuteClinic.” She was assured at the time that she would not be required to prescribe contraceptive and abortifacient drugs. In practice, her clinic rarely even received requests for the drugs, and when it did, Ms. Strader was able to refer the patient to another practitioner at the same clinic or to another MinuteClinic five minutes away.
According to the legal Complaint Ms. Strader filed in a Texas federal court with the help of attorneys with First Liberty Institute, the culture at CVS changed, and the company no longer tolerated or accepted requests for religious accommodations like hers.
“On August 26, 2021, CVS held a Town Hall meeting in which Angela Patterson, Chief Nursing Officer at CVS Health Corporation, announced that all employee providers and nurses at all CVS MinuteClinic locations would now be required to perform certain functions CVS suddenly deemed essential,” the Complaint reads. Those “certain functions” included prescribing the very drugs that Ms. Strader objected to. The policy was implemented nationwide at all CVS locations.
CVS then ignored Ms. Strader’s repeated requests to accommodate her religious beliefs, according to the lawsuit. She was ultimately terminated by CVS on October 31.
“After accommodating Robyn for six and a half years without a single complaint, CVS fired her because it simply did not like her pro-life religious beliefs,” said Christine Pratt, Counsel for First Liberty Institute, in a press release. “It is illegal to issue a blanket revocation of all religious accommodations when it is so easy for CVS to accommodate its employees.
“CVS is sending a message that religious health care workers are not welcome and need not apply.”
Paige Casey was a CVS MinuteClinic nurse practitioner in Virginia from 2018 until 2022. She alleges in her Virginia state court lawsuit that in December 2021 CVS no longer respected or accommodated her religious objections to prescribing abortion-causing drugs, and ultimately fired her in April 2022 for refusing to do so.
She is represented by lawyers with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
“Corporations like CVS cannot defy the law by firing professionals who want to work consistently with their faith,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle, director of the ADF Center for Life, in a statement.
“Paige had a spotless record of caring for patients, yet CVS decided to abruptly fire her solely because of her religious belief that life begins at conception. Virginia law protects the freedom of everyone to work without fear of being fired for their religious beliefs prohibiting participation in abortion.”
The Virginia statute in question specifically exempts employees from having to participate in abortions:
“[A]ny person who shall state in writing an objection to any abortion or all abortions on personal, ethical, moral or religious grounds shall not be required to participate in procedures which will result in such abortion, and the refusal of such person, hospital or other medical facility to participate therein shall not form the basis of any claim for damages on account of such refusal or for any disciplinary or recriminatory action against such person, nor shall any such person be denied employment because of such objection or refusal” (emphasis added).
The two lawsuits against CVS highlight the increasing difficulty of Christians in the workplace dealing with the pro-abortion, woke policies of companies who are not only indifferent to conscience rights and religious freedom, but are actively hostile to employees who hold beliefs at odds with corporate policies relating to controversial social issues.
And it is not proper to dismiss the rights of religious employees in these situations with arguments like, “Go find a job elsewhere.” Not only are religious freedom rights embedded in the First Amendment, but also in various federal and state conscience laws.
Indeed, it is these woke corporations that need to change, not their employees.
We’ll keep you apprised of the progress of both of these lawsuits.
The Texas case is Strader v. CVS Health Corporation, and the Virginia case is Casey v. MinuteClinic Diagnostic of Virginia.
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