Catholic nurse practitioner sues CVS after she was fired over birth control objections
The Catholic nurse practitioner’s case may be bolstered by a Supreme Court ruling in favor of a Christian postal worker who objected to working on Sundays.
Tue Jan 30, 2024 – 2:11 pm EST
FLORIDA (LifeSiteNews) — Pharmacy and convenience store company CVS has been hit with another federal lawsuit over its alleged policy of denying all religious accommodation requests.
First Liberty Institute filed a federal lawsuit recently against the company after it fired Gudrun Kristofersdottir, a Catholic nurse practitioner who had worked at the company for eight years. It is similar to another lawsuit filed in 2022 against the company after it fired a Baptist nurse practitioner, Robyn Strader, who objected to prescribing abortifacient birth control. There are at least two other similar lawsuits against the company.
The complainant’s case may be bolstered by a Supreme Court ruling in favor of a Christian postal worker who objected to working on Sundays.
The Supreme Court ruled in June 2023, in the Groff v. DeJoy case, that employers must prove an “undue hardship” if they are going to deny accommodation requests. The new ruling is mentioned in the latest CVS lawsuit. Gerald Groff, the post office worker, is also a First Liberty client.
The latest complaint, filed in a Florida federal district court, alleges CVS violated Kristofersdottir’s right, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to religious accommodations. From 2014 to 2022, the company accommodated the Catholic nurse practitioner who worked at the company’s walk-in MinuteClinic in Tequesta, Florida. “On the rare occasion that a patient would seek such a prescription, she would refer them to another CVS MinuteClinic provider,” the lawsuit stated.
It was rare that a woman would even come to the MinuteClinic for birth control – in any year, only five or ten women would request birth control during an appointment. Normally, Kristofersdottir would see 2,000 patients per year, according to the complaint. The company considered her a “High Performer,” and her manager, according to the lawsuit, said she did not want to have to fire her, but a changed corporate policy required it.
For years, following company procedures, Kristofersdottir would refer the women to a different MinuteClinic or a different nurse practitioner. Her own CVS location would “occasionally accepted referrals from other CVS MinuteClinic practitioners for services they were not qualified, not willing, or otherwise not able to provide,” according to the lawsuit.
It reportedly offers pharmacists the ability to opt-out of dispensing birth control.
Company embraces ‘diversity’ — but not for religious people
But things changed when the company adopted a new “diversity” approach that treated Christianity as a form of “privilege.”
“Indeed, in 2021, CVS’s diversity statement notably omitted religion from a list of other classes protected from discrimination,” the lawsuit stated.
A new policy, implemented by Angela Patterson, the company’s chief nursing officer, ordered all employees to provide “pregnancy prevention services,” no matter if they had religious objections.
This new policy concerned Kristofersdottir, who had read about Robyn Strader, the Baptist nurse practitioner suing CVS. Kristofersdottir’s manager, Lorraine Hendricksen, told her not to worry and that Strader’s situation must have been different.
However, other CVS employees soon got involved and stripped Kristofersdottir of her protection, telling her that employees with similar beliefs had decided to forfeit their accommodations to keep their jobs.
The company then ignored suggestions from Kristofersdottir that would allow her to keep her job “including transferring her to a larger clinic, a virtual clinic, or a COVID-19 clinic where contraceptives would never be requested.” It denied her request in 2022 for an accommodation – and reportedly, Hendricksen objected to the firing. “Ms. Hendricksen told Ms. Kristofersdottir that she was upset that CVS was forcing her to terminate Ms. Kristofersdottir as she had been an excellent employee who excelled at her job and received positive reviews both from her patients and her supervisors,” the lawsuit alleged.
The company also could have moved her to a larger clinic that had more nurse practitioners on staff or used its online system to direct patients to a nearby clinic