Suit says CVS fired handicapped pharmacist improperly

CVS Caremark is named in a discrimination suit filed in Harrisburg.
CVS Caremark is named in a discrimination suit filed in Harrisburg. (ELIOT J. SCHECHTER /Bloomberg News)
Posted: July 24, 2013

A Harrisburg pharmacist has sued the drugstore chain CVS Caremark in federal court, alleging that the company discriminated against him because he had multiple sclerosis and fired him because he raised safety concerns about CVS's plans to cut staff.

In the lawsuit, filed in Harrisburg, Joseph Zorek, 61, said he had worked for the company or its predecessors from 1968 until 2012, when, he said, he was fired.

Zorek's suit says CVS violated the American With Disabilities Act for several years when supervisors insisted he use a lift chair not meant for long-term sitting, so that he could see the floor in front of the pharmacy counter.

Zorek said he was in charge of the pharmacy, worked 50 to 60 hours per week, and supervised four staff pharmacists and 21 pharmacy technicians. In 2010 and 2011, the suit says, that 24-hour pharmacy dispensed about 4,200 prescriptions per week, more than any other CVS store in its sales district.

"In an effort to increase profits, defendants cut the number of pharmacy technician hours" by nearly 20 percent, according to the suit. Zorek warned his supervisors that cutting staff would increase errors in the labeling and filling of prescriptions, and, the suit says, that prediction proved true after the cuts were made.

Seeking lower costs, public and private insurers have urged patients to fill prescriptions through mail-order companies, so retail stores, independent and chain-owned, are under competitive pressure. Indeed, CVS Caremark has a mail-order division in hope of keeping some prescriptions filled that way.

"The health and safety of our customers is our number-one priority, and we have comprehensive policies and procedures in place to ensure prescription safety," CVS Caremark spokesman Mike DeAngelis said via e-mail. "CVS denies the allegations in the lawsuit filed by Mr. Zorek, and we intend to defend the case vigorously. Since this matter involves pending litigation, we have no further comment."


Contact David Sell at 215-854-4506, dsell@phillynews.com, or @phillypharma. Read his blog at www.inquirer.com/phillypharma.

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