Sep 04, 2018
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
“Walgreens doesn’t accommodate religious accommodations.” That’s how Darrell Patterson’s supervisor at Walgreens described the company’s policy. Despite that very frank (and honest) assessment, despite the fact that Walgreens violated its own policies by firing Patterson, and despite the fact that Walgreens suffered no hardship from his not working on Sabbath, four judges in two different courts decided that Walgreens didn’t violate the law. Now in 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to set this injustice right and clarify the law for all people of faith for the first time in more than 30 years.
Darrell Patterson started working for Walgreens in 2007 at its call center in Orlando, Florida. His job as a trainer, which he had been quickly promoted to after his hire, was normally conducted during regular business hours, even though the call center operated seven days a week, 16 hours a day. While Patterson had some Sabbath scheduling problems, for the first four years he was always able to resolve them.
In 2011, however, it became clear Walgreens wanted to make a change. Weeks before he was fired, the same supervisor who said Walgreens didn’t accommodate told Patterson that he needed to be “more flexible” with his schedule. This was troubling since the only time Patterson was not available was during the Sabbath. He reiterated his willingness to work whenever needed, except on his Sabbath.
A couple weeks later, on Wednesday, August 17, 2011, Walgreens received a letter from the Alabama Board of Pharmacy. Walgreens operated another call center in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and it recently came to the attention to the pharmacy board that the call center handled prescription refills. Unfortunately for Walgreens, this violated Alabama state law. Employees needed to either be pharmacists or pharmacy technicians to handle refill calls. The call center employees were neither.