Legislation / Court Cases

IL Court Rejects Walgreens' Latest Attempt to Deny Pharmacists Their Right of Conscience (4/08)

ILLINOIS COURT REJECTS WALGREENS' ATTEMPT TO DENY PHARMACISTS' CONSCIENCE RIGHTS. An Illinois state court has rejected the latest attempt by a major pharmacy chain to read pharmacists out of that state's Health Care Right of Conscience Act. 

On April 18, 2008, Judge Daniel Stack of the Madison County Circuit Court denied a motion by Walgreens to dismiss a series of cases brought by four former Walgreens pharmacists who allege that they were fired by the company for refusing to agree to dispense Plan B and other "emergency contraceptives."      

Francis J. Manion of the American Center for Law and Justice is representing Rich Quayle, Carol Muzzarelli, Kelly Hubble and John Menges in the lawsuits against Walgreens. According to Manion,  Walgreens argued that pharmacists were not covered by the Conscience Act, a law that prohibits discrimination against "any person" who refuses to participate "in any way in any form of health care services contrary to his or her conscience."

Walgreens also argued that pharmacists are not "health care professionals" under the Act.  Judge Stack rejected all of the company's arguments, finding that "plaintiffs are not excluded from the Act." 

The judge wrote that his opinion was influenced by two previous Illinois federal court decisions in which the ACLJ represented clients suing under the Act.  In particular, the court found the case of Vandersand v. Wal-Mart, 525 F. Supp. 2d 1052 (C.D. Ill. 2007), to be "instructive, influential and logical."

In that latter case, Wal-Mart raised arguments identical to those being used by Walgreens in the Madison County cases. U.S. District Court Judge Jeanne Scott found Wal-Mart's arguments to be baseless and issued a written opinion which has now been cited as "persuasive authority", not only in Madison County, but also by the U.S. District Court in Washington in the Storman's case.

Manion commented, "Judge Stack's decision is yet another confirmation that pharmacists who are willing to take a stand for the sanctity of life as well as the dignity of their profession are not without legal recourse. 

"It is astonishing that the big corporate pharmacy chains keep trying have their own pharmacists – members of their own corporate 'teams' – denied the protection of laws that clearly cover them.  Fortunately, the courts in Illinois are seeing through this tactic and upholding pharmacists' rights."
   

The Madison County cases will now go through the pretrial discovery process. No trial date has been set.
[F. J. Manion, Esq. American Center for Law and Justice
(502) 549-7020; http://www.pfli.org/articles/20080422quaylewalgreens.html; 22Apr08]