Pharmacist Accuses Walmart of Discrimination and Retaliation

A pharmacist is claiming Walmart discriminated and retaliated against him for his age, his medical condition and medical leave, and his reporting of supposed unlawful conduct at the pharmacy.

A pharmacist is claiming Walmart discriminated and retaliated against him for his age, his medical condition and medical leave, and his reporting of supposed unlawful conduct at the pharmacy.

Pharmacist Don Lewis, who had worked as a Walmart pharmacist and pharmacist-in-charge for 9 years, was fired on November 25, 2015. As a result of the termination, the Texas resident said he suffered from the following:

Economic and professional reputation damages

Emotional distress

Humiliation

Embarrassment

Lost wages and benefits

Costs associated with attorney fees

In addition to working as a pharmacist and pharmacist-in-charge at a Walmart in Athens, Texas, Lewis also served as a floater pharmacist for several other Walmart stores in Texas.

Lewis has 30 years of experience working in pharmacy and has owned his own company in the past, according to the complaint.

While working at Walmart between February 2007 and February 2015, Lewis received evaluations that showed he “met or exceeded expectations in performing his duties,” the complaint stated. He also received regular salary increases and annual bonuses. He alleged he was never in any disciplinary trouble during this time period, according to the complaint.

However, in February 2015, a woman named Thao Khamnouane was hired as a market manager and showed “hostility toward him as an older pharmacist,” according to the complaint.

“This hostility was manifested by words and actions taken by Khamnouane against pharmacist Lewis between May 2015 and the date of his termination in November 2015,” the complaint stated.

In early 2015, Lewis discovered that he had a serious medical condition and needed to take medical leave. However, Khamnouane allegedly refused the request for “reasonable accommodation” in the terms and conditions of his employment.

Because of his condition, Lewis suffered from “excessive dynamic airway collapse” and wished to work fewer hours and/or be reassigned to a different pharmacy as a staff pharmacist. Khamnouane, a pharmacist named Cedric Brasfield, and Walmart allegedly rejected the request.

There was also an issue with a pop-up “employee immunization clinic,” in which a guest pharmacist named Evelyn Kim came to the Athens Walmart and provided immunizations to patients.

However, Lewis noted that there was no physician-approved protocol giving the pharmacy authority to administer the immunizations. In addition, the protocol was to also provide paperwork about who administered the immunizations back to the physician, and Lewis alleged that this was not completed.

He informed Khamnouane about the alleged violations, and he was told to “fix it” 5 days later. However, he did not want to “fix” the issue by falsifying records surrounding information like the lot number, expiration date, and manufacturer of the dosage.

In addition, when it was discovered that 3 patients who received shingles immunizations were not actually eligible for it, Khamnouane allegedly told Lewis to solve the problem by backtracking and getting the patients’ physicians to approve of the immunizations.

“One of the physicians contacted refused to authorize, after the fact, the shingles immunization, a matter that was particularly distressing to pharmacist Lewis as the pharmacist in charge,” the complaint read.

Khamnouane also allegedly told Lewis that Kim was a close friend and it was “none of his business” if Kim would be disciplined, the complaint stated.

Kim was promoted to “immunization specialist,” and 1 month after Lewis returned to work after medical leave, Lewis was fired.

“The reason given during the termination meeting was not clear, however, it is believed to have been related to an incident in August 2015 and was therefore pre-textual,” the complaint read. “The real reason for his termination was because of his age, his recently diagnosed disability, his need for FMLA [Family and Medical Leave Act], his report of the unlawful practice of pharmacy by giving inappropriate immunizations, and his refusal to engage in and/or cover up unlawful acts.”

The complaint also stated that Lewis was treated differently from younger pharmacists who had no disability and no protected activity. He was replaced by a pharmacist in his or her 20s.

Lewis would like a trial by jury, plus compensation for attorney fees, legal costs, interest, and damages.

Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove told Pharmacy Times that this was a new case and the company had not yet been served with the complaint, so it could not comment on specifics.

However, Hargrove said Walmart does not tolerate discrimination or retaliation of any kind and upholds respect and dignity in all individuals.

“We take the matter seriously, and we will respond appropriately with the court,” he said.