CNA—A Christian nurse practitioner formerly employed at a CVS Pharmacy in Texas has filed a discrimination complaint, saying that the company illegally discriminated against her on the basis of her religious beliefs against contraception and pressured her to change her beliefs.
Robyn Strader, 72, was a nurse practitioner at the CVS Pharmacy MinuteClinic in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Keller, Texas. She said she had secured a religious accommodation not to prescribe contraception when she was hired in 2015. She was fired in late 2021 after the company decided to end religious accommodations.
“The corporate canceling of faithful religious Americans like Robyn must end,” Christine Pratt, counsel for the Plano, Texas-based legal non-profit First Liberty Institute, said Feb. 8.
“CVS accommodated Robyn for more than six years without any problems,” said Pratt, whose group is representing Strader. “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.
Strader discussed her beliefs in her religious discrimination complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“I am a Christian and a longtime member of a Baptist church,” she said. “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.”
Pratt said that on the “rare occasions” when contraception was requested, Strader referred them to another nurse practitioner at her location or to the CVS MinuteClinic two miles away.
This changed on Aug. 26, 2021, when the company said that “all nurses must perform essential services related to pregnancy prevention.” Strader’s manager then told her that the manager’s own supervisor said that the company would no longer honor religious accommodations and that Strader had no religious accommodation on file, Pratt said in a Feb. 8 letter to the Dallas District Office of the EEOC.
Strader’s manager on Sept. 23 allegedly said that if Strader did not change her beliefs she would be fired on Oct. 31. The manager allegedly repeatedly pressured Strader to change her beliefs and CVS allegedly failed to respond timely to three letters from Strader. She was fired on Oct. 31.
According to Pratt, CVS now claims that she had never requested a religious accommodation and that accommodating her beliefs would cause an undue hardship to the company. Strader did request and receive a religious accommodation not to receive a Covid-19 vaccine.
“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,” Pratt’s letter said. “In these ways, CVS violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”
CNA sought comment from CVS Pharmacy but did not receive a response by deadline.
First Liberty Institute said Strader has taught science in high school and at the pre-professional level. Among her other credentials, she holds a Ph.D. in health education from the University of Toledo Medical Center and a master’s degree in nursing, education and family nurse practitioner from Texas Woman’s University.
Backers of abortion and contraception access have sought to limit or eliminate religious freedom protections for individuals and institutions that object to abortion, to contraceptives, or both.
Catholic institutions spent years opposing a federal mandate that required employers to provide health plan coverage for contraception, including drugs that can cause abortion.
Recent controversies surrounding mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations and other measures related to the pandemic have also prompted debates over religious freedom protections and exemptions.