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CVS settles with nurse practitioner fired for refusing to prescribe abortifacients


Despite being given a religious accommodation for nearly seven years, Robyn Strader was suddenly forced by her employer to choose between her job and her Christian beliefs.

A former CVS employee has agreed to a settlement with the pharmacy giant after being fired for refusing to prescribe certain contraceptives against her religious beliefs.

Robyn Strader worked as a nurse practitioner for CVS Health Corporation and MinuteClinic for six and a half years. Strader claimed that during that time she worked under a religious accommodation excusing her from prescribing contraceptives that she believed induced an abortion or prevented the implantation of an embryo.

In August 2021 CVS changed its policy, requiring all clinic employees to prescribe contraceptives and abortifacients.

Strader requested an accommodation but was not granted one. She sent three letters to CVS but received no response.

Later that year CVS fired Strader for her refusal to comply with the new requirements.

Strader filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which later notified her of her right to sue.

In January 2023, Strader filed suit in a federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, alleging that CVS violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on various protected characteristics including religion. It specifies that

“[t]he term ‘religion’ includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.”

She argued that CVS refused to engage with her on possible accommodations and refused to consider her request in violation of the Civil Rights Act.

“I am a Christian and a longtime member of a Baptist Church. 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 said in a statement.

CVS argued that prescribing contraceptives and abortifacients were essential parts of employment and accommodating employees would cause the company a burden.

Michael DeAngelis, spokesman for CVS, said in a statement, “It is not possible … to grant an accommodation that exempts an employee from performing the essential functions of their job. We cannot grant exemptions from these essential MinuteClinic functions.”

On May 20, however, CVS agreed to settle with Strader though the terms were not made public.

Strader’s legal representatives, First Liberty Institute and Boyden Gray PLLC, celebrated the outcome.

Stephanie Taub, senior counsel with First Liberty, said in a statement, “We are thrilled that Robyn was able to reach a resolution with CVS. We are hopeful that companies across the country will recognize the religious liberty of their employees and work to protect those rights.”

Jonathan Berry, managing partner at Boyden Gray PLLC and former head of rulemaking at the U.S. Department of Labor, stated, “Respecting the religious beliefs of workers and providing reasonable accommodations is not optional under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. We are pleased for Robyn.”

We don’t know the particulars of the settlement, so it’s tough to comment on what it could mean for future employees and cases. Presumably, CVS agreed to pay some attorney’s fees and damages to Strader, which would certainly be a win for her; however, that is speculation. It seems highly unlikely that CVS admitted any wrongdoing if the terms of the settlement are not public or that it will have much, if any impact, on its policy.

We can only pray that this case will cause CVS and other employers to reevaluate whether a blanket requirement on all clinic staff is wise. Employers must at least try to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs under Title VII and the First Amendment and that clearly didn’t happen here.

Yet regardless of the terms of the settlement, Strader has done right by refusing to violate her religious beliefs and conscience.

Any person being pressured by an employer to violate their religious convictions or personal conscience has the right to stand up for those beliefs and not comply with rules or demands that go against God’s moral precepts. In that situation, the law protects you and your right to not be forced to violate your sincerely held beliefs. Employers are not always required to grant a religious accommodation, but you should seek it. If denied, you will then have to make a choice between your beliefs and your job.

It is always best to choose your convictions, even if it requires financial hardship.

If, like Robyn Strader, you lose your job because you sought to obey and honor God, He will provide for you, and you will rest easier knowing you did what was right and true.

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