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CVS fired Catholic nurse practitioner for refusing to provide contraception: lawsuit

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

A nurse practitioner in Virginia is suing CVS, alleging that the pharmacy chain illegally fired her for refusing to distribute contraceptives.

The Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit Wednesday in the Virginia Circuit Court for the County of Prince William on behalf of Paige Casey. She worked as a nurse practitioner at several CVS MinuteClinic locations in northern Virginia beginning in 2018.

The lawsuit contends that CVS wrongfully refused Casey's request for an exemption to a policy requiring MinuteClinic staff to dispense contraception and abortion-inducing drugs and then fired her for not following the policy. 

Casey says the policy was contrary to her religious beliefs as a practicing Roman Catholic who believes that life begins at conception and that distributing such drugs is a grave sin. 

The lawsuit stated that CVS had previously accommodated Casey's request for a religious exemption. But the company announced in August 2021 that it would "no longer accommodate employees with religious convictions against prescribing abortifacients, hormonal contraceptives, and other forms of birth control that can cause abortions."

Last December, Casey resubmitted an exemption request to the CVS Health Advice & Counsel Team, with her superiors officially rejecting her request in March and terminating her employment later that month. 

The complaint characterized MinuteClinic's actions as a violation of Virginia state law, specifically the state's Conscience Clause, which says that an employee of a medical facility cannot be fired or disciplined if they "state in writing an objection to any abortion or all abortions on personal, ethical, moral or religious grounds."

"Corporations like CVS cannot defy the law by firing professionals who want to work consistently with their faith," ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle said 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." 

Wednesday's lawsuit against CVS' MinuteClinic is not the first time the pharmacy chain has garnered backlash for refusing to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs.

In February, First Liberty Institute wrote a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Robyn Strader, a nurse practitioner at a MinuteClinic in Keller, Texas.

Like Casey, Strader lost her job shortly after the company stopped honoring requests for religious exemptions from prescribing contraception.

In a previous statement to The Christian Post, CVS' Executive Director of Corporate Communications Mike DeAngelis insisted that the company has "a well-defined process in place for employees to request and be granted a reasonable accommodation due to their religious beliefs, which in some cases can be an exemption from performing certain job functions."

At the same time, he asserted, "It is not possible, however, to grant an accommodation that exempts an employee from performing the essential functions of the job."

DeAngelis characterized "educating and treating patients regarding sexual health matters – including pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted infection prevention, and safer sex practices" as "essential job functions of our providers and nurses."

DeAngelis maintained that his company "cannot grant exemptions from these essential MinuteClinic functions."

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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