PHOENIX, ARIZONA – Hilde Hall says she drove from her doctor's office to a CVS pharmacy in her suburb of Phoenix in April to get her first hormone prescription.
The treatment would spur physical changes in Hall's body, which would reflect her identity as a transgender woman, she said.
"I would finally see that my body reflects my gender identity and the woman I have always known," she said.
Her enthusiasm quickly turned to anxiety as the pharmacist refused to fulfill her prescription and humiliated her to other customers, she said.
Hall said she called the CVS Customer Service twice. When no one raised her concerns, she decided to file a complaint with the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy on Thursday.
In a statement to CNN, CVS Health said that the pharmacist had violated his policies and was no longer employed by the company.
"We also apologize for failing to properly investigate Miss Hall's original CVS complaint, which was due to unintentional oversight," the statement added. "We are proud to address customer concerns in a timely manner, and we take steps to prevent this isolated event from occurring again."
The statement indicated that CVS has achieved a perfect score in the Corporate Equality Index of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which ranks companies on the basis of their support for LGBTQ equality.
What Hall says happened
The pharmacist has given Hall no clear reason for the refusal, she said in a blog post in which she described the encounter on the website of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"He kept asking loudly and in front of other CVS employees and customers why I got the prescriptions," she said.
"Embarrassed and desperate, I almost started crying in the middle of the business," she wrote. "I did not want to answer why this hormone therapy was prescribed to me by my doctor, and I felt that the pharmacist was trying to make me a transgender stranger, and I froze and worked to keep back the tears."
She was able to fill the recipe at Walgreen without any problems, she said. But she wanted an apology from CVS and an assurance that the drugstore chain would not tolerate discrimination against transgender customers or anyone else, she said.
"My family fortunately supports me and helped me to deal with the anger and humiliation that has caused this experience," she wrote. "But many other transgender people are not as happy as I. I do not want to think about what could happen if this pharmacist abuses a transgender person who does not have a good social support system."
CVS has met both demands. The chain said the pharmacist's action "does not reflect our values or commitment to inclusion, non-discrimination and the provision of excellent patient care.
"CVS Health sincerely apologizes to Ms. Hall for her experience at our pharmacy in Fountain Hills, Arizona last spring," the company said.
The pharmacist breached the company's policy of denying patients access to medications prescribed by a doctor based on the individual religious or moral beliefs of a pharmacist, said CVS Health spokesman Mike DeAngelis on Sunday.
"Under federal law and some state laws, we must take into account a religious belief that can prevent a pharmacist from taking certain medications, in which case the pharmacist must inform us in advance about such religious beliefs so that we can ensure that further precautions are taken to ensure that the patient's drug needs are met promptly, "he said in an email.
ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Block said that the promises made by the pharmacy chain are important at a time when the Trump administration has signaled its intention to repress health protection for transgender and non-binary individuals.
After Hall filed the complaint, a CVS representative contacted her and apologized for the pharmacist's behavior, Steve Kilar told Arizona's ACLU on Friday.
"Hilde hopes that CVS will publicize its non-discrimination policy so that transgender and non-binary customers can be certain that the company will take appropriate action if similar discrimination occurs in the future," Kilar said.