CVS defends policy after Christian nurse fired for refusing to prescribe contraception drugs

People walk outside of a CVS Pharmacy store in New York City on January 24, 2019.
People walk outside of a CVS Pharmacy store in New York City on January 24, 2019. | Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for CVS Pharmacy

A Christian nurse practitioner has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that CVS discriminated by not granting her a religious exemption from dispensing contraception and terminating her for refusing to do so. 

In response, the national drug store chain defended its policy to require nurses to perform "essential functions" of the job. 

The First Liberty Institute, a religious liberty legal nonprofit, wrote a letter to the EEOC on behalf of nurse Robyn Strader Tuesday. The document stated that Strader worked as a nurse practitioner at a CVS Pharmacy MinuteClinic in Keller, Texas, for 6.5 years until she was fired for refusing to prescribe contraception because doing so conflicted with her religious beliefs.

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“Before her first day on the job, Ms. Strader asked for a religious accommodation not to prescribe contraception, and upon hiring her, CVS agreed to accommodate her religious beliefs,” First Liberty Counsel Christine Pratt wrote in the letter.

“For the next 6.5 years, CVS accommodated Ms. Strader with no issues. On the rare occasions someone requested contraception, Ms. Strader referred them to the other nurse practitioner at her location or to another CVS MinuteClinic two miles away.”

Strader’s work experience changed dramatically on Aug. 26, 2021. That is the day “CVS announced that all nurses must perform essential services related to pregnancy prevention,” including contraception.

Shortly after that, Strader’s manager informed her that “CVS would no longer honor religious accommodations regarding pregnancy prevention services and that Ms. Strader had no religious accommodation on file with CVS.” 

“On September 23, 2021, Ms. Strader’s manager said that, if Ms. Strader did not change her beliefs about contraception, CVS would fire her on October 31, 2021,” the letter adds. “Ms. Strader’s manager repeatedly pressured Ms. Strader to change her beliefs. CVS failed to timely respond to the three letters Ms. Strader wrote requesting a religious accommodation, and on October 31, 2021, it terminated her.”

After firing Strader, Pratt said that CVS claimed that “she never requested a religious accommodation and that accommodating her would cause CVS an undue hardship.”

The lawyer argues that CVS violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on religion.

“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 letter states.

Title VII declares that “it shall be an unlawful practice for an employer … to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” 

“I am a Christian and longtime member of a Baptist Church,” Strader claimed in a discrimination charge signed Monday. “I believe that all human life is created in God’s image and should be protected. For this reason, I cannot participate in facilitating an abortion or participate in facilitating contraceptive use that could prevent the implantation of an embryo, cause an abortion, or contribute to infertility.”

Strader accused her former manager of pressuring her to abandon her religious beliefs that motivated her steadfast opposition to contraception. Specifically, she reported that her former manager told her, “you are doing this to yourself” when speaking of her impending termination and took issue with her “strong beliefs.”

In a statement to The Christian Post, CVS’ Executive Director of Corporate Communications Mike DeAngelis insisted that while the company couldn’t comment on a “specific complaint filed with EEOC,” it 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.” 

“It is not possible, however, to grant an accommodation that exempts an employee from performing the essential functions of their job,” he argued. “We continue to enhance our MinuteClinic services, growing from providing urgent care to offering more holistic care.” 

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

DeAngelis maintained that “[w]e cannot grant exemptions from these essential MinuteClinic functions.”

In a statement, Pratt cited Strader as an example of “corporate canceling of faithful religious Americans,” which she demanded “must end.”

“CVS accommodated Robyn for more than six years without any problems,” Pratt said. “It’s bad medicine 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.” 

In recent weeks, other major corporations have reached settlements with religious employees after their refusals to accommodate their deeply held beliefs led to lawsuits. Last month, an Amazon delivery service provider paid $50,000 to a former Christian employee fired for refusing to work Sundays. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at:

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