Wal-Mart Beats Druggist's Discrimination Claim

While serving as a temporary pharmacist at the Wal-Mart pharmacy in Onalaska, Wis., in July 2005, pharmacist Neil Noesen denied service to customers seeking contraceptives and then refused to refer them to other staff members. A devout Roman Catholic, Noesen said Wal-Mart should either shield him from interaction with patients seeking contraceptives or allow him to express his views against the use of birth control and refuse service.

Wal-Mart tried to meet Noesen half way--excusing him from counter duties and allowing him to divert birth-control prescription requests to other staff members. But Noesen rejected those accommodations and demanded to be shielded from all customer interaction. Wal-Mart fired him.

As a result of the reprimand, Noesen's license was restricted, requiring him to notify any prospective employer about how his religious practices would limit his activities and to specify steps he'd take to ensure those practices wouldn't impede patients' access to prescribed medication.

Before starting work, Noesen wrote a letter to his Wal-Mart supervisor saying he would "decline to perform any activity related to the provision of contraceptive articles." Wal-Mart agreed to accommodate Noesen by separating birth-control orders from other prescriptions and excusing Noesen from filling contraceptive prescriptions.

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Michael T. Burr

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