Fired Pharmacist with Needle Phobia Wins $2.6 Million Verdict

January 27, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

A needle-fearing Rite Aid pharmacist who had been fired for refusing to attend mandatory immunization training will receive $2.6 million for his troubles.

A needle-fearing Rite Aid pharmacist who had been fired for refusing to attend mandatory immunization training will receive $2.6 million for his troubles, according to Law360.

A New York federal jury sided with Christopher Stevens, who has trypanophobia, after he was fired in 2011 for refusing to go to the training, which was primarily for administering flu shots. On January 22, 2015, the jury found Rite Aid violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the state’s Human Rights Act, Law360 reported.

Stevens will receive $1.2 million in front pay, $485,000 in back pay, and $900,000 in pecuniary damages.

When Stevens learned that Rite Aid made the immunization training mandatory in 2011, the pharmacist gave human resource and district managers a letter from his doctor, who explained that Stevens had a needle phobia. The letter maintained that it may be unsafe for Stevens and his patients if he administered injections.

Phone calls were exchanged between Rite Aid representatives and Stevens, but in the end, the pharmacist said he was fired 5 days after stating that his disability would impede his ability to go to the training, Law360 reported.

Stevens responded to his termination with an Equal Opportunity Employment Commission complaint, and the commission posited that providing vaccinations was not a required job function.

However, Rite Aid maintained that trypanophobia would not be considered a disability by the ADA, Law360 reported.

Six days into trial, the jury determined that Rite Aid was wrong; the pharmacy chain had violated the ADA and state law.

“We’re very happy the jury put Chris back in a place he would have been had Rite Aid followed the law and worked with him and made accommodations,” Steven’s attorney, Daniel B. Berman of Hancock Estabrook Law Firm, told Law360.