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CVS Accused of Transgender Bias in Pharmacist’s EEOC Complaint

April 22, 2021, 7:11 PM

A transgender North Carolina pharmacist claims discrimination by CVS Health led to her attempting suicide at work, according to a complaint filed with a federal workplace civil rights agency.

Olivia Buckoski alleges she experienced “a systemic and persistent campaign of discrimination” from managers, coworkers, and customers after disclosing her transgender status. The allegations are part of an administrative charge obtained by Bloomberg Law and filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on April 19.

Buckoski began working for CVS as an intern in 2008 and then joined the company as a staff pharmacist in 2012. She claims CVS didn’t intervene to stop verbal harassment from customers, her windshield was smashed, coworkers repeatedly called her by the wrong name and gender, and she wasn’t accommodated after her gender affirmation surgery, among other alleged violations of federal anti-discrimination laws.

The charge states that Buckoski’s attempted suicide at work in October 2020 was “a direct result of this discrimination.” She was placed on an “indefinite unpaid leave of absence” thereafter and is still a CVS employee.

A CVS Health spokesman said the company is committed to supporting transgender colleagues and doesn’t discriminate on the basis gender, gender identity, or gender expression.

“Olivia remains an employee in good standing and is a valued member of the CVS Pharmacy team,” CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said in an email statement. “We are reviewing the allegations in the EEOC charge and will file our response in accordance with the EEOC‘s process.”

Workers must file discrimination charges with the EEOC before they can sue an employer in federal court.

The EEOC can’t confirm or deny the existence of charges because of the strict confidentiality provisions under federal law, and the agency is therefore prohibited from commenting on them, Christine Saah Nazer, an EEOC spokeswoman, said in an email.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing Buckoski in EEOC proceedings. She’s also filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Buckoski said transgender employees should have dignity and respect in the workplace.

“I’ve worked at CVS my entire career and only really started getting treated like this after I transitioned, or started transitioning,” she said in an interview Thursday.

The U.S. Supreme Court last June granted LGBT workers federal anti-discrimination protections in its landmark Bostock v. Clayton County ruling.

Members of the EEOC’s leadership panel have said that the agency should weigh in on the questions left unanswered by that decision, like whether employers can continue to have sex-segregated public accommodations, or if religion can be used as protection against workplace discrimination allegations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com; Travis Tritten at ttritten@bgov.com

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