CVS Hit with Second Lawsuit for Terminating Employee over Religious Beliefs
Gudrun “Gunna” Kristofersdottir is a Florida-based nurse practitioner who works at the CVS MinuteClinic. Or rather, who used to work there. Due to her deeply held Catholic beliefs, Kristofersdottir refused to provide contraceptives as a CVS employee, and she was able to do so through an approved religious exemption in previous years. However, CVS changed its policy in 2021 stating that it no longer grants “exemptions from … essential MinuteClinic functions.” As such, Kristofersdottir was terminated.
According to Mike DeAngelis, the CVS Executive director of Corporate Communications, there’s a “process in place for employees to request” exemptions, but some, allegedly, are “not possible” to grant. And for DeAngelis, providing women with birth control is a supposed “essential” function of a CVS employee.
In response, Kristofersdottir, with the help of the First Liberty Institute “filed a lawsuit against CVS Pharmacy for failing to grant her a religious exemption from the requirement to provide contraceptives,” The Christian Post reported. First Liberty Senior Counsel Stephanie Taub said in a statement, “After accommodating Gunna for several years, CVS fired her because it simply did not like her religious beliefs.” She added that “CVS is sending a message that religious health care workers are not welcome and need not apply.”
Although CVS’s policy was initially changed in 2021, but Kristofersdottir’s religious exemption was without issue through 2022. And when she approached her superior to see if her accommodation was still valid, she was told it was. However, it only took two weeks for that to change. Kristofersdottir’s case comes on the heels of a previous case involving Robyn Strader, a former CVS employee, who was fired in January 2023 for the same reasons. Strader had been working at CVS for six years before she sued CVS for terminating her after delegitimizing her religious exemption.
The lawsuit claimed CVS had multiple opportunities to accommodate Kristofersdottir “by transferring her to a virtual position, a larger clinic, an education or training position, or a location specializing in COVID-19, or continuing to honor the religious accommodation that worked successfully for years.” Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, agreed. She shared with The Washington Stand that “CVS is acting inappropriately and should be doing more to accommodate employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs.”
She continued, “Catholic employees should not be forced to prescribe hormonal birth control, [because it] is against the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Del Turco emphasized that the actions of CVS could result in them missing “out on excellent Christian employees who do not want to violate their conscience in order to cash a paycheck.” She added, “The leadership at CVS may need remedial training about religious freedom and how they might be violating the rights of their employees by refusing to accommodate their religious beliefs.”
Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at FRC, pointed out the irony in these circumstances with TWS. “Hormonal contraception is the only ‘medicine’ that takes a healthy functioning organ in a woman’s body and shuts it down and stops it from functioning the way that it was meant to.”
She added that since “hormonal contraceptives have the ability to take an unborn child’s life,” it’s “antithetical to the mission of health care itself” to consider “a drug that both shuts down a healthy, functioning organ and has the ability to take a person’s life an ‘essential’ part of someone’s job in health care.” Ultimately, Szoch urged, health care is meant “to promote wellness within human beings” — a purpose contraceptives do not fulfill.
Del Turco concluded, “Hopefully, the courts will affirm Kristofersdottir’s right to religious freedom and other companies will get the message that violating an employee’s conscience is not an acceptable business practice in the United States.”
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.