Walgreens Allowed to Fire Pharmacist for Refusing to Give Flu Vaccine

February 25, 2015
Meghan Ross, Associate Editor

Walgreens' firing of a pharmacist who refused to administer flu vaccines on moral grounds was within the pharmacy giant's rights, according to a federal judge.

Walgreens’ firing of a pharmacist who refused to administer flu vaccines on moral grounds was within the pharmacy giant’s rights, according to a federal judge.

Rodney Prewitt, 66, claimed he could not provide flu shots after a close friend developed Guillain-Barré syndrome following a flu vaccination, according to The Legal Intelligencer. Prewitt’s friend allegedly became paralyzed and died of complications from the disease.

Prewitt’s stance on the flu vaccine became a problem after Walgreens launched a program in 2010 that required pharmacists to undergo a training session for administering vaccines. Under the new program, pharmacists were also required to immunize patients who asked for vaccinations.

The pharmacist also filed an age discrimination claim against Walgreens and stated that younger pharmacists who were not yet able to immunize patients kept their regular hours, and he was not able to do the same, according to The Legal Intelligencer. Instead, Prewitt was allegedly asked to work night shifts at a store farther away from his home than his usual Walgreens pharmacy in Oxford, Pennsylvania.

Prewitt was placed on floater status because he was the only Pennsylvanian pharmacist refusing to administer vaccines, according to The Legal Intelligencer, and he rejected any shifts that were not at this regular pharmacy in Oxford.

US District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania noted that Prewitt brought up the age discrimination claim after he realized that his moral objection to vaccines would not hold up in court as wrongful termination.

“He was demoted and later terminated because he refused to immunize customers,” The Legal Intelligencer reported Stengel saying.

The judge argued that Prewitt could not prove that age was a determining factor in his firing.

“Walgreens made a business decision to market vaccinations, specifically the flu vaccine,” Stengel said, according to The Legal Intelligencer. “Mr. Prewitt did not agree with this decision and voiced a moral objection. He refused to perform an essential part of his job. Though Mr. Prewitt’s objection may have been genuine and sincere, he has not established any unlawful discrimination by his employer.”