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Note, Pharmacist Refusals: Dispensing (With) Religious Accomodation Under Title VII

By Amy Bergquist. Full text here.

Pharmacists with greater frequency are refusing to fill certain prescriptions on religious grounds. These employees contend that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires pharmacies to accommodate refusing pharmacists by allowing other pharmacists to fill objectionable prescriptions. Some employers embrace this view and accommodate refusing pharmacists by sending customers to other pharmacies to have their prescriptions filled.

This Note examines Title VII’s requirement that employers provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious beliefs unless those accommodations would create an undue hardship on the business. Part I outlines the two-prong analysis for evaluating religious accommodation claims once a prima facie case of religious discrimination is established. Part II applies that two-prong analysis to explore the various accommodations available for refusing pharmacists. For each accommodation that objecting pharmacists are likely to find reasonable, the Note demonstrates that the accommodation usually imposes a greater than de minimis cost on the employer, and hence would not be required under Title VII.

The Note concludes by observing that some employers choosing to accommodate pharmacists beyond the obligations of Title VII may be using the law as a pretense to justify policies that some customers and pressure groups find objectionable. This Note’s exploration of the actual requirements for religious accommodation under Title VII therefore serves as a valuable tool to distinguish between employers’ legal obligations and their voluntary employment practices.