Walgreen Hit With Discrim Suit over Contraception Dispensing

December 8, 2005 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Drugstore giant Walgreen Co. engaged in religious discrimination by "effectively firing" three Illinois pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception.

That was the substance of a complaint by a public-interest group in a filing with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Associated Press reported.

The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, said it filed the EEOC complaint on behalf of the druggists who were put on unpaid leave November 28 because the drugstore chain said they violated a state rule mandating that such prescriptions be filled.

“Since the pharmacists believe that human life begins at conception, they conclude that dispensing such drugs would require them to participate in the moral equivalent of abortion,” the Washington-based group said in a statement.

“I knew when these drugs came out I would never be able to dispense them,” pharmacist John Menges, told The Associated Press.

The Illinois rule – first imposed by Governor Rod Blagojevich in April and permanent since August – requires Illinois pharmacies that sell contraceptives approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to fill prescriptions for emergency birth control. Pharmacies that do not fill prescriptions for any type of contraception are not required to follow the rule.

“It is strictly stated in state law that pharmacists must fill prescriptions for emergency contraceptions,” said Tiffani Bruce, a spokeswoman for Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreen told the Associated Press. “Anyone who takes issue with this law needs to address it with the state or the governor.”

The three pharmacists – identified by the group as Menges, Richard Quayle and Carol Muzzarelli – were put on unpaid leave for refusing on religious and moral grounds to fill prescriptions for the morning-after pill. A fourth pharmacist who was put on leave returned to work Monday after agreeing in writing to follow the state rule.