Walgreens Accused of Religious Discrimination

Discussion
Dec 08, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


A group founded by the conservative Christian preacher Pat Robertson has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging that Walgreens engaged in
religious discrimination by “effectively firing” three pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions for the so-called morning after pill.


The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said the three pharmacists who were place on unpaid leave by the drugstore chain “believe that human life begins at conception,
they conclude that dispensing such drugs would require them to participate in the moral equivalent of abortion.”


A state law in Illinois requires pharmacists to sell all contraceptives approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


Tiffani Bruce, a spokesperson for Walgreens, said the chain was simply following the law in Illinois and “anyone who takes issue with this law needs to address it with the state
or the governor.”


Frank Manion, a senior counsel for the ACLJ, said, Walgreens’ decision “does not bode well for other pharmacists across the country who don’t want to be compelled to participate
in something that doesn’t fall within their religious beliefs,’ adding, “It’s important that a stand be taken here.”


Walgreens has offered to place the pharmacists in positions in Missouri, which does not have a similar requirement about filling emergency-contraception prescriptions.


John Menges, one of the pharmacists in the case, said he did not accept the offer because he is not licensed in Missouri and Walgreens would pay him less until he gained his
license. 


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11 Comments on "Walgreens Accused of Religious Discrimination"


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David Livingston
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

I don’t think most consumers pay much attention to the religious zealots. We have to remember that Pat Robertson is a television entertainer first and foremost. His job is to make money for his television network. Perhaps he should use some of his faith healing powers to find those pharmacists better jobs. As for Walgreens, they need to not overreact by firing people. Perhaps they should screen all their pharmacists to find out who does not want to comply, and have a backup plan to put into place when someone requests the pill.

Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Pat Robertson, the religious right and these pharmacists have gone too far. Walgreens is acting correctly. These pharmacists are licensed to dispense drugs which are prescribed by a physician. They are not licensed to diagnose, treat or prescribe medications — that is a physician’s responsibility. They were clearly over-stepping their responsibilities to both their customers and Walgreens by allowing their personal beliefs to interfere with their professional responsibilities. Walgreens should simply fire these pharmacists for this action, which violates the terms of their employment, and their responsibilities, both ethically and professionally to their customers. Religion should not be allowed to permeate and impact the workplace, such that it has a deleterious effect on a company’s ability to fulfill its obligations to its customers. These types of actions distort the place of ethics in the workplace, since they seek to illogically place workplace decisions under the guise of religious ethics.

Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
15 years 2 months ago

There is no way in the world I will state an opinion on this one. There seems to be a good chance our discussion on this topic will hurt many feelings. I think I see that discussions of topics like this are not conducted very effectively, so rather than risk hurting others, I will bow out now and wish all participants good luck — and please take care with each other.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

Certain religious groups are more likely to alienate the majority of the country than convince them to be allies. The absurd accusation against Wal-Mart being anti-Christmas, this illogical lawsuit against Walgreens, demands that bookstores and libraries ban certain books and magazines all tend to make certain fundamentalist groups look foolish to the majority. The more extreme they get, the more they isolate themselves. In the USA, people vote at the cash register.

Jeff Lynch
Guest
Jeff Lynch
15 years 2 months ago

I commend the pharmacists for standing by their beliefs. By saying that they should be fired for “work place responsibilities,” you are saying that those responsibilities are more important than religious beliefs. No job should ever trump a religious belief. If people are able to take off days for religious holidays, how can you say that’s ok, but it’s not ok to refuse to perform service that you feel is against your religion?

Walgreens should have had a plan in place in case pharmacists were not comfortable filling these orders.

That said, Pat Robertson is like any other activist. They need to stop butting into situations they don’t belong. They do it for selfish reasons, and do more harm than good because they alienate people.

Jim Leichenko
Guest
Jim Leichenko
15 years 2 months ago

If your religious or moral beliefs interfere with your work, you need to find a new line of work — it’s better for you, your employer and the customer.

By the way, maybe we should be talking about this issue in a larger context. Right now, there is an orchestrated and disingenuous movement to portray retailers as the villains in a “war” against Christians and Christmas. The lawsuit filed by this group seems like just another stunt to fan the flames.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 2 months ago

There are doctors and hospitals that identify their willingness to perform abortions and consumers can choose to frequent them or not; doctors, nurses, and staff members can choose to work for those organizations or not.

If Walgreens’ position is that they fill prescriptions for all legal drugs if the prescriptions are correctly written, then it seems to me that they can require that their employees follow their policy. Employees can then choose whether or not to work at Walgreens knowing that they are required to fulfill the company policies. Walgreens can then make their policy known to consumers who can choose to frequent the company or not.

Making a choice, by the company, employees and consumers, is risky and may alienate some groups. However, that is the kind of decision that companies will increasingly be forced to make with the breakdown of mass audiences and the increase in smaller groups of consumers with strong views on specific subjects.

James Hornecker
Guest
James Hornecker
15 years 2 months ago
For a government or a company to lack a provision for reasonable conscientious objection strikes me as totalitarian. The State of Illinois and Walgreens are effectively attempting to impose their particular values on these pharmacists. The pharmacists’ refusal to fill the prescription isn’t necessarily religious, although it would be reasonable on those grounds alone. It’s about ethics. The drug in question is legal, of course, but legal doesn’t always mean moral. Since the pill can often have the effect of preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg, it sometimes destroys a genetically human creature with its own unique DNA. Under the prevailing constitutional jurisprudence, that creature isn’t recognized as a human person, but the law is somewhat ambiguous as to when a person begins to exist. It appears these pharmacists have concluded that the risk is too great that a human person may actually die as a result of this medication’s use. Consequently, it is not only reasonable but morally imperative that they not cooperate in that action because complicity in the death of an… Read more »
Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
15 years 2 months ago

It’s a state law. You work for Walgreens; it’s their policy to sell the products. If you don’t like it, work somewhere else. Everything is a choice. Anyway, I don’t think the general public takes Pat (or any religious zealot) too seriously, considering their track records. They should be more worried about the White House Christmas cards, I would think.

Richard Wakeham
Guest
Richard Wakeham
15 years 2 months ago

I think it’s basically a legal issue. A company’s choice: 1) get sued by private party, or 2) have the state attorney general in your face. It’s basically a no brainer; the employees must be dismissed if they are breaking the law.

Gwen Kelly
Guest
Gwen Kelly
15 years 2 months ago

It is great this discussion is on RetailWire today. Yes, it is a bit of a slippery slope in discussing but this is an issue that many marketers are or will have to grapple with. In this day, it is simply impossible to even attempt to try to please all market segments 100 per cent of the time. In this case, Walgreens seems to have an understanding of the underlying issues. They are acting responsibly within the framework of the law. Employees and customers who disagree with how Walgreens conducts its business can exercise their choice to either seek employment elsewhere or shop elsewhere.

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