A former CVS Pharmacy employee says the company violated federal law when it fired her after she sought a religious accommodation from prescribing certain contraceptives that can induce a chemical abortion.
Robyn Strader, a former nurse practitioner, filed a charge of discrimination this month with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against CVS, alleging the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on religion.
Strader is a Christian who, according to the complaint, believes “all human life … should be protected.” The contraceptives in question can “prevent the implantation of an embryo, cause an abortion, or contribute to infertility,” she said in the complaint. By filling the prescription, she said, she could be “facilitating an abortion.”
Strader worked at CVS for six and a half years, during which her local store in Keller, Texas, accommodated her religious exemption, according to her complaint, which was filed by First Liberty Institute. On the rare occasion that someone asked for contraceptives, Strader referred them to another nurse on staff or to a different CVS Pharmacy two miles down the road, according to her complaint.
Everything changed on Aug. 26, 2021, when CVS announced that all nurses must perform “essential services.” Her manager encouraged her to “change her beliefs” about contraceptives but she refused, according to the complaint. CVS fired her on Oct. 31, 2021. The company denied her requests for a religious accommodation.
“CVS discriminated against Ms. Strader on the basis of religion when it prospectively preempted all requests for religious accommodations related to contraception prescription, derided her religious beliefs and pressured her to abandon them, discontinued a six-year religious accommodation without cause, refused to consider her request for an ongoing religious accommodation, failed to engage with her about possible accommodations, and terminated her because of her religious beliefs,” the complaint says.
Christine Pratt, counsel for First Liberty Institute, said in a news release that the “corporate canceling of faithful religious Americans like Robyn must end.”
“It’s bad medicine,” Pratt said, “to force religious health care professionals to choose between their faith and their job, especially at a time when we need as many health care professionals as we can get.”
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Justin Sullivan/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.