CVS faces another suit from nurse practitioner over birth control prescribing

A Kansas nurse practitioner filed suit against CVS on Oct. 12, accusing the retail pharmacy chain of firing her because she refused to prescribe birth control and emergency contraceptives, despite formerly having a religious exemption. 

Suzanne Schuler worked at a CVS MinuteClinic from 2009 to 2021, and during her tenure, received exemptions from prescribing or refilling prescriptions for contraceptives, according to court documents. In September 2021, CVS "abruptly" rescinded its policy and fired Ms. Schuler Oct. 31, 2021, the lawsuit alleges. 

In early September, a Virginia nurse practitioner filed suit against CVS for a similar reason. 

Ms. Schuler filed the lawsuit under religious discrimination. 

"The only thing that changed in 2021 was that CVS labeled providing counseling and advice about contraceptives, abortifacients, and other birth control options as 'essential functions,'" the lawsuit says. 

CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis told Becker's the company cannot exempt an employee from these "essential functions of their job."

"MinuteClinic does not prescribe abortifacients or provide abortion services, but educating and treating patients regarding sexual health matters — including pregnancy prevention, sexually transmitted infection prevention, screening and treatment, and safer sex practices — have become essential job functions of our providers and nurses," Mr. DeAngelis said. "We cannot grant exemptions from these essential MinuteClinic functions.

If a customer sought a prescription for a contraceptive while she was working at the MinuteClinic, the exemption allowed Ms. Schuler to refer them to another CVS clinic or have the customer return on a day when she was not working. 

New policies in some CVS and Walgreens locations have risen to the spotlight the past few months after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, which caused a ripple effect for restricted medication access.

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