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No Catholics allowed?

LAW | Former CVS employee sues to get her job back


Anthony Behar / Sipa USA via AP

No Catholics allowed?
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Florida nurse practitioner Gudrun Kristofersdottir’s convictions about childbearing and unborn life compel her not to prescribe hormonal contraceptives. As a practicing Roman Catholic, she objects to all artificial contraceptives, following church doctrine. For seven years, her employer, the pharmacy chain CVS, accommodated her beliefs, allowing her to refer patients who requested contraceptive drugs to another CVS MinuteClinic provider.

But CVS abruptly reversed that policy in 2021. The company announced that all its MinuteClinic providers and nurses would be required to perform certain functions CVS deemed essential—including “pregnancy prevention services.” The change caused Kristofersdottir to lose her job in April 2022 at the Tequesta clinic north of West Palm Beach. Last month, she filed a lawsuit against CVS, claiming religious discrimination.

In a complaint filed in federal court on Jan. 18, attorneys for Kristofersdottir contend that by abruptly revoking the nurse practitioner’s religious accommodation, CVS violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The 1964 federal law requires most employers to make reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious beliefs unless it would cause “undue hardship.” In June 2023, the Supreme Court upped the burden on employers: To deny a religious accommodation, they have to prove the requested accommodation would substantially increase the cost of doing business.

Kristofersdottir is a veteran nurse with over 20 years of experience. According to the complaint filed by her First Liberty Institute attorneys, she had inquired about a transfer to a position that did not involve prescribing hormonal contraceptives, such as an education or training position, or to a CVS MinuteClinic that focuses exclusively on COVID-19.

She also asked about placement in a larger office, such as those in nearby Port St. Lucie and Palm Beach Gardens, where multiple nurses worked simultaneously and where referrals could be more easily handled. The pharmacy giant wouldn’t take her up on the offer.

Kristofersdottir’s lawsuit is the third legal volley aimed at CVS over its policy. Virginia nurse Paige Casey sued the pharmacy company in August 2022, and Texas nurse Robyn Strader did the same in January 2023. Casey’s lawsuit was settled last year, while Strader’s is set for trial in October. Meanwhile, Texas and a Catholic pharmacist are suing the Biden administration over its attempt to require federally funded pharmacies to dispense abortion pills.

What precipitated CVS’ COVID-era change of policy is unclear, though the complaint cites a change in corporate culture that resulted in treatment of religious practice as a form of “privilege.” According to First Liberty attorney Tabitha Harrington, that language echoes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training now widespread among businesses.

Out of work for two months, Kristofersdottir referred to her firing as “a traumatic experience to live through and to go through.” But she said her faith helped her when she was tempted to compromise.

“When you initially know you are losing your livelihood … you try to bargain with yourself that it’s OK,” she said. “Yet after going through this discerning process, I came to the conclusion that I really did not have a choice in this matter.”

CVS attorneys have until March 22 to file a response to Kristofersdottir’s lawsuit.


Steve West

Steve is a reporter for WORLD. A graduate of World Journalism Institute, he worked for 34 years as a federal prosecutor in Raleigh, N.C., where he resides with his wife.

@slntplanet

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