Wal-Mart Goes MEDIEVAL on a Pharmacist.

Jp Enlarged

When this pharmacist first contacted me, he asked that I include his name, address and contact information.  His attorney suggested that he hold off on that.  This is anonymous.  You can leave comments with your contact information, if you want to talk with him.  Or send to me at jpgakis@hotmail.com and I send to him.

Our industry is like a third world country.  Perhaps like a mid-eastern country.  Cut off his tongue if he swipes a lorazepam.  Industries like high tech, law, accounting.  When a valuable employee gets into cocaine, they actually pay for the treatment.  Drug Store and Big Box companies kill the pharmacist off.

You have all been here.  7:00 PM.  The cashier leaves for the day.  Your technician is inexperienced and struggling.  There are four people at the register.  Some asshole at the drive-through has been honking.  He thinks it is an express lane.  There are ten prescriptions on the counter that haven’t been started.  You got a headache.  Right there, in front of  you on the fast shelf is the 0.5 mg lorazepam. Very seductive.

From the July, 2001 issues of Drug Topics.  Study by Dean Dabney, Ph.D.  Georgia State University, Criminal Justice Department.

95% OF PHARMACISTS HAVE DIVERTED Rx ONLY DRUGS FOR SELF USE.

45% OF PHARMACISTS HAVE DIVERTED POTENTIALLY ADDICTIVE Rx ONLY DRUGS FOR SELF USE.

61% OF PHARMACISTS HAVE STOLEN THESE DRUGS

24% STARTED IN COLLEGE

8% OF THESE PHARMACISTS FORGED PRESCRIPTIONS

I am writing this letter to inform everyone in the pharmacy community how Wal-Mart treats its pharmacists. I am particularly interested in warning those pharmacists who Wal-Mart actively recruits to move to rural locations where they have difficulty staffing the stores.

In April 2002, I voluntarily surrendered my pharmacist license due to chemical dependency issues. This voluntary surrender was simultaneous with my entering the intensive outpatient treatment at the state’s Drug Court. The Board of Pharmacy and I stipulated that I would serve a five year suspension and then five years of probation upon my return to the practice of pharmacy. At this time, I had no savings and no income. My loss of employment and lack of savings resulted in my eviction from the house that I was living in and loss of my health insurance. Fortunately, I was able to piece together social service programs that allowed me to obtain housing and health coverage.

Per my agreed order on suspension, I completed the Drug Court program successfully, and during the same time, I participated in the State’s Recovering Pharmacist Program. I completed the Recovering Pharmacist Program after a little more than five years of monitoring approximately one year after I returned to practice of pharmacy first as an intern then subsequently as a licensed pharmacist.

In the summer of 2007, I applied to the Board of Pharmacy for reinstatement of my license. The license was reinstated on probationary status as originally agreed, and I was given a pharmacy intern license to complete 300 hours of internship and prepare for re-licensing exams.

I applied to three chain drug stores, and received offers from two of them. At all of these interviews, I fully disclosed the nature of my disciplinary action. I settled on Wal-Mart because at the time I was confident that if I kept my nose clean and followed all of the rules, I would have lifetime employment. After all, there was no reason to believe that Wal-Mart would go out of business. On the day that I completed my new hire paperwork, I provided both my district manager and the pharmacist preceptor I was working under with copies of the order reinstating my license subject still to probation. I also had my Pharmacy Preceptor and subsequently Pharmacy Manager complete quarterly reports to the State’s Recovering Pharmacist Program.

In January of 2008, I took and passed the NAPLEX and Law exams, and my license as a pharmacist was reinstated on probation. After completing the State’s Recovering Pharmacist Program, I was appointed to the Recovering Pharmacists’ Advisory Board and continue to serve on the Advisory Board.

I continued to work for Wal-Mart as a staff pharmacist, and in the fall of 2009 I purchased my first house. Please understand that the purchase of this house was a struggle, but nevertheless a significant achievement for me. Because of my financial predicament in 2002 experienced because of the loss of my license, I had destroyed my credit and cleaning it up enough to qualify for an FHA loan was nothing short of a minor miracle.

So, all has been well with me since the reinstatement of license on probation in 2007. In September, I celebrated my fourth anniversary of service at Wal-Mart. Then, on October 12 at approximately 4 pm, I was called by my Market Health and Wellness Director and I was told that I needed to meet her at the district office over 20 miles away from my store on Thursday, October 13. I did so the following day, where I was told that due to the fact that I have a history of disciplinary action against my license, effective immediately I was no longer eligible to work for the company. I was being terminated with absolutely no severance pay. This is despite the fact that I fully disclosed this information in my interviews and received above average reviews for the four years I was there, and passed the original new hire background checks. Needless to say, I was stunned and asked why this was an issue four years later. I was told it is because Wal-Mart policy has changed. The sole reason was the disciplinary action. I have no criminal conviction and I am not listed on the US Department of Health and Human Services List of Excluded Individuals and Entities.

Fortunately, I found a very good attorney who has taken this case, and on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I completed an intake interview with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who agreed to accept a charge of disability discrimination against Wal-Mart. I think that it is ironic that on the day before Thanksgiving last year, the Market Health and Wellness Director called me to open the store and be the only pharmacist that day because another pharmacist had called in sick and she “[had] nobody else to turn to.” A year later, I was the person filing a charge of discrimination against Wal-Mart.

I will keep Jim P. advised of how this case progresses against Wal-Mart. But please, let this be a warning to those of you who are considering going to work for Wal-Mart. Particularly those of you who Wal-Mart is begging to move to rural locations where Wal-Mart is the only pharmacy around for miles. Imagine how you will feel when Wal-Mart decides to cut you loose after moving you hundreds of miles away from your home without even a penny in severance. Don’t ask if it can happen to you, ask when it will happen.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Tom Neumann  •  Dec 7, 2011 @12:03 pm

    Don’cha just love corporate America…it’s just this kind of behavior that the Occupy movement is about.

  2. John Edward Bull  •  Dec 7, 2011 @3:21 pm

    I wish) & pray for your spasm in the practice of pharmacy. Walmart is the cause of this, please don’t get down on yourself, I ‘m sure this is another trial in your life. You moved to the front of the line,you are needed by the other 95% of pharmacists.

  3. Peon  •  Dec 7, 2011 @10:25 pm

    I know an instance of a pharmacist that was terminated by Wal-Mart because he was unsure if he had a rx for Zoloft, which he was taking, after losing his parents. He was asked before the test what rx medications he was taking. He told them and one of the drugs was Zoloft. They wanted to know about a rx and he could not remember whether he had a rx or not and they terminated him. His DM could not do anything and had not wished to terminate him but, the Regional terminated him. The pharmacist tried contacting the Regional, but the Regional would not return his phone calls. He was finally able to get in touch with someone in the HR department at Wal-Mart and the guy there took his case to the CEO of Wal-Mart and my friend had his job reinstated. I thought it was the most ludricous thing to terminate someone over taking Zoloft. If you check, I bet you will find that at least 30% and more likely 40% of Wal-Mart employees take antidepressants. They have to take them to cope with all the crap, pressure, and rude customers.
    *
    The guy in the story(above) should try contacting the HR department at Wal-Mart. He can forget contacting DM’s and Regional’s. He needs to contact people at a much higher level, either through phone calls or by writing letters. Some states, like mine, have no laws to protect a worker from being fired. The worker has no recourse. Hiring an attorney or getting an attorney to take the case can be a long process. Wal-Mart will fight it. They have several new lawsuits against them everyday and another one does not mean much to them. They will drag it out for as long as they possibly can.
    *
    One thing which bothers me about all of us that work for these big corporations is how little recourse we have when terminated. Just as the fellow in this story, he has only two things he can do and that is appeal to Wal-Mart to reinstate him or get a lawyer and sue them. We need an independent body to be able to revue these type cases and have the power to fine companies that terminate people withouth reason. It does seem quite strange that he has been working for Wal-Mart for 4 years and they suddenly change their policy and terminate him.

  4. The Redheaded Pharmacist  •  Dec 7, 2011 @10:30 pm

    Interesting, I wonder why the sudden change in Walmart policy? Perhaps some incident elsewhere prompted Walmart to take some extreme action. I don’t understand how employers can think they have the right to treat loyal employees like this and get away with it. But this is the nature of modern employee/employer dynamics. Because of the economy, the job providers have the advantage. Feel free to forward my e-mail to this pharmacist Jay Pee, I’d be curious to ask them a few questions and get more details on this case if they are willing/able to talk about it. I realize that with a pending lawsuit discussing this further might not be possible. But it’s a shame, from the information you’ve given here it doesn’t appear this pharmacist did anything to warrant their termination.

  5. Pharmaciststeve  •  Dec 8, 2011 @1:38 am

    IMO.. WalMart is the flag bearer for how corporate America operates.. what they figure out how to get by with others tend to emulate.
    This song comes to mind
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xd82HxYyHZg
    Where is the APHA? Wouldn’t you think that a national organization would come out to support our profession against such oppressive tactics?
    Where are the rest of the Wal Mart Pharmacists to support their colleague?.. I know cowering in the Rx dept with their head bowed toward their computer terminal.
    I now work with a tech that use to work for Walmart and she was fired because she got sick at work.. threw up on the Rx floor once and a second eruption she dashed into the Rx dept adjacent “Pharmacist only” restroom.. and was fired because she use the “Pharmacist only” restroom.
    She has also told me that Walmart doesn’t provide a P&P manual to employees, but it somewhere “out on the web” and it is 1000+ pages..
    I have commercial rental property and have seen some rental agreements from these big corps and you can see every horror story that they ever had to deal with written into their lease.
    In this particular situation, I suspect that they lost a sizable lawsuit – which was settled with a confidentially agreement.. so no one knows the details and the corporate attorneys said that this is the new policy to prevent this from happening again and we can’t grandfather anyone.. so this particular RPH got caught in “the purge”.. I am sure that with all the employees that Wal Mart has.. there are dozens of others who were in this same boat.

  6. Drug Monkey  •  Dec 8, 2011 @2:34 am

    This wouldn’t have happened had the pharmacist been a member of a union.

    I know, because I am.

    Something to think about.

  7. Pharmaciststeve  •  Dec 8, 2011 @6:13 pm

    @Drug Money & others…

    I have heard the talk about unions or guilds since I was in college.. and you are correct… but … for a union to be formed.. you have to have a group of employees to agree to form a union.. IMO.. collectively… we will not even stand up for ourselves.. on even the most minor problem/incident. If individually can’t/won’t take ANY STAND.. would a rational person expect these same individuals to put their names on a form/petition to form a union? Maybe this is why we still don’t have a union or anyone has tried to organize Pharmacists.

    Here is a short story about what can happen when you try to do things alone….

    I am writing in response to a request for additional information.

    In block No.3 of the accident report form I put – trying to do the job alone as the cause of my accident.

    You said in your letter, that I should explain more fully and I trust the following details will be sufficient.

    I am a bricklayer by trade – on the day of the accident I was working alone on the roof of a new six story building. When I completed by work I discovered that I had approximately 500 pounds of bricks left over.

    Rather than carrying the bricks down by hand one-by-one, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which was fortunately attached to the building at the sixth floor

    Securing the rope at ground level I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the brick into it. Then I went back to the ground level and untied the rope.

    Holding it tightly to ensure a slow decent of the 500 pounds of bricks.

    You will note in block No. 11 of the accident reporting form that I weigh… 135 pounds

    Due to my surprise of being jerked off the ground so rapidly, I loss my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope…

    Needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate up the side of the building….

    In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming down…

    This explains, in detail, the fractured skull and collar bone …

    Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid assent…

    not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley…

    Fortunately, by this time, I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope in spite of my pain….

    Approximately at the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel…

    Devoid of the weight of the bricks …

    the barrel now weighted approximately 55 pounds…

    I again, refer you to my weight in block No.11 of the accident reporting form…

    As you might imagine…

    I began a rather rapid descent … down the side of the building… and again in the vicinity of the third floor…

    I met the barrel coming up… This accounts for my two fractured ankles and the lacerations of my legs and lower body …

    The encounter with the barrel slowed me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell onto the pile of bricks …

    And fortunately only 3 vertebrates were broken …

    I am sorry to report however, that as I laid their on the brick in pain and unable to stand and watching the empty barrel six stories above me ..

    I again lost my presence of mind… I let go of the rope …

  8. Peon  •  Dec 9, 2011 @5:23 pm

    Pharmaciststeve, at the Wal-Mart store, where I work, we only recently learned that the restroom in the pharmacy was only for the pharmacist. Wal-Mart is scared to death that a tech will steal something, so no techs in the restroom. I can’t imagine a tech, in the case of your tech, being fired for going into the restroom under her cicrumstances. But, Wal-Mart is all about following policies and procedures and any sense of REASON goes out the window. Just as I mentioned a pharmacy manager that was fired for taking Zoloft and he could not remember having a rx for it. He did have a rx. And, he eventually got his job back, but it took several agonizing months and only after his case went to the very top to the CEO and the CEO met with the lawyers and they were afraid he would bring a lawsuit against them and they would lose.
    *
    The big problem in corporate America is due to workers having no recourse, other than a lawsuit, to get back their job after being fired. In my state, a worker can be fired for any reason, and the state has no laws at all to protect workers. What we need is a special agency of the government to investigate all complaints by workers and force these companies to act in a reasonable manner. As it is, workers have few rights when it comes to being terminated. We are in a recession and companies have plenty of people waiting in line for a job. But, the politicians are in the pocket of the corporations, and all we can expect is more crap.
    *
    Pharmacists will not unionize. I believe they still live under the illusion they are ‘professionals’. Just think about it, in corporate America a pharmacist is classified as ‘management’ and therefore the company does not have to give a pharmacist a lunch break or a 15 minute break. I am no more a manager than anyone else in the Wal-Mart store. I am just a worker like everyone else. And, just like everyone else, I have no protection from being fired. You never know when, for some odd, stupid reason, you will be fired, just as in the case of your tech. I have argued with Regionals regarding us workers not having an independent body to examine cases when we are fired. Just as the guy JP mentioned, the guy has no recourse, other than trying to get upper management at Wal-Mart to reinstate him(unlikely) or a lawsuit. If Wal-Mart thinks they have half a chance of beating a lawsuit filed by the guy, they will fight it for years. The guy will be old and grey before he sees any money.
    *
    I am not here to bash Wal-Mart. In fact, I think they are one of the better pharmacy employers. I would certainly not want to work for Rite-Aid or CVS. Wal-Mart has made so many mistakes and sued so many times in the past that they have been forced to clean up their act. I certainly don’t like their leading pharmacy down the road to cheap generics($4.00 generics). But, pharmacy has been moving in a direction in which I don’t like ever since I graduated from pharmacy school(40 years ago). My pharmacy school is now requiring 7 years to get the PharmD degree. The last year the students are working at a pharmacy for fee, but having to pay $15,000 in tuition. It seems to me that the pharmacy schools are looking at pharmacy(from their perspective) as a money maker for them. It seems to be more about how much more money they can gouge out of students than making pharmacists. And, the last few years of pharmacy school have become the toughest. It is completely crazy. You weed out students in the first year and not in the last few years! Can you imagine going 5 or 6 years trying to make a pharmacist and then being booted out of pharmacy school? Crazy!!!!

  9. Davey, RPh Intern  •  Dec 11, 2011 @4:34 pm

    I am in my last 5 months of pharmacy school. It’s a very dangerous emotional rollercoaster in which you learn about “real” pharmacy. Everything you were told in class seems secondary to the whim of the current preceptor/manager you work under. You’re subject to the mercurial whimsies of ethically and socially challenged people (the pharmacists themselves or perhaps the techs). I work in a coumadin clinic right now and one of the main women I fear is this “vet” who has three children. Hardcore Chinese. She likes to use fear. If you’re one minute late, she’ll “write you up” (it’s her own write up, and not official, but she just can’t wait to tell her boss that you’ve been “tardy”), yes, tardy, it is second grade again.
    Totally agree with Peon: we are not professionals and this is not a profession in the eyes of our employers. It’s a job.
    Halfway through my rotations and another $20k in for the year, I don’t see sustainability in pharmacy. Not if you work for “The Man” that is. The problem is that pharmacists themselves are willing to sacrifice other pharmacists and colleagues in order to appeal to management, for they fear management more than they fear telling me I’m late.
    The way rotations at the end of pharmacy school goes is like this: “you will fail if you don’t do what I say”.
    You’re right Peon, pharmacists won’t even take their own side in an issue. So they won’t unionize. And so it’s not only our “professional” organizations and management, it’s actually “us”.
    Someone said something about individual efforts, but if you try to do this in a retail setting, of course they’re going to toast your ass over the spit; why wouldn’t they? You’re an obvious threat, and easy to quell. I guess the individual effort is where you open your own kind of practice, not take on corporateurs.
    Being that I personally am not self-destructive for the sake of money, I don’t see myself lasting in this industry longer than 3-4 years. This existence is punishing and bad for your health.

  10. Davey, RPh Intern  •  Dec 11, 2011 @4:47 pm

    Also, this is a paper I read. See if you can pull it up. It talks about the personality type that is “selected for” in retail pharmacy. It’s amazing that this observation could be made and read, and you’d never need to work in a pharmacy to know that it’s true.

    Latif, D. (2000). Ethical Cognition and Selection-Socialization in Retail Pharmacy. Journal of Business Ethics. 25: 343-357.

  11. Pharmaciststeve  •  Dec 11, 2011 @10:37 pm

    @Davey… just look at pharmacy school and all the other things that you have to put up with on your journey to your license much like a pledge period and “hell week”. Put up with it… the potential rewards at the end of the journey will be worth it. Once licensed, you run into someone that is on your level at the employer and you have a self appoint enforcer.. if it was me.. I would ask to see what she wrote up and rip it up in front of her. If she did it a second time… I would pull down the P&P book and ask her if she really want to “live by the book”… I am sure that there are plenty of things in “the book” that she is not observing.
    When I had my pharmacy, I liked to run a pretty loose ship with the employees, but my wife who was over HR.. had to have her P&P book. When an employee wanted to “stick it to me” with something that was in the book.. no matter how petty… if they insisted… I would say “ok, if that is what the book says…” what they didn’t find out to latter is one of my favorite saying “if you want to live my the book … you will die by the book …”.. the next time they wanted something, and exception, that was against “the book”… the answer was a FIRM NO… “… the books says….” They quickly got the point about “the book”..
    Just remember, most P&P’s have a “hostile work environment” paragraph and typically they are pretty vague.
    Under similar circumstances, when you get your license, got to the person’s supervisor and have a conversation about your concerns… of this employee creating a hostile work environment and that you would hate to make a form complaint to HR about this issue.
    I can assure you, that the person’s supervisor.. the last thing they want is for HR to get involved..
    I would follow up the meeting with a email hoping that the issue we discussed on MM/DD/YY can be resolved at the dept level and appreciate the supervisor’s time dealing with it.

  12. GAIL  •  Dec 12, 2011 @4:23 am

    I am also a “former” Wal-mart pharmacist, “kicked to curb” within a month of having a new Market Health and Wellness Director take over; to the pharmacist at the beginning, might the Wal-mart M.H.& W. Director have the initials T.B.?
    I was a float pharmacist with no regular schedule, and was told there just “wasn’t enough need for back-up help to warrant keeping me on the roster”.

    I didn’t have prescriptions come back, I had no customer complaints, and a spotless record in two states, going back 25 years. I was told T.B. doesn’t like older pharmacists, I guess I fall into that category now.

    I was two weeks shy of a 5-year anniversay at Wal-mart, in fairness I must say the “other” (five) District Managers I dealt with were good to me.

    Please forward my email address directly to the original Wal-mart pharmacist above.

    As a former union member, WE SHOULD HAVE UNIONIZED WHEN WE HAD THE UPPER HAND, back in the late 1980′s. It’s too late now; maybe then we’d have pensions (only had by Rphs at Safeway, since it’s unionized)instead of falling 401Ks. Looking forward, it appears a lack of solidarity will very likely contribute to our downfall.

    Put your trust in corporate “non-pharmacist” CEO’s if you like, they normally have NO appreciation for what it takes to become a pharmacist.

  13. turtle68  •  Feb 21, 2012 @6:35 pm

    I too am one of the fallen pharmacists of Walmart. I worked for them for 17 years. Then they brought in this young ambitious H&W manager, who wasn’t even a pharmacist, from another part of the country. She wiped out about 10 of us in a year’s time, more than I have ever seen let go in the previous 16 years. I assume it is due to the economy in some way but it was a slap in the face after so many years of service. Anyway, almost a year to the day, she moved back from where she came from. Many of us now believe she was brought in for that very purpose, to thin the ranks.

  14. David  •  Jul 6, 2012 @8:22 pm

    Walmart is firing us Pharmacists one at a time. If you have had any prior disciplinary action. They fire you. Even if you’ve been there for years. They state they have a new policy and we fall below what is required. In other words, you are no longer good enough to work for them. It happened to me recently. I really believe if Sam was still alive, he wouldn’t stand for it. We need more of us to speak out. It happened to my friend last week.

  15. Liz  •  Jul 10, 2012 @2:39 pm

    I was just fired from Walmart after working as a floater for a year for a disciplinary action that had “just come to their attention”. My reviews were all positive, I had just gotten a raise and I worked my ass off at every shift they threw at me, sometimes at sites an hour and a half away (and NO milage reimbursement). Also, I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in November (and am doing VERY well) and I can’t help but think that they dug up this disciplinary action to get rid of my because of my diagnosis. Right now, I am running screaming from retail pharmacy in every shape and form and trying to get a drug information and/or consulting position. I don’t care about the money anymore. I had thought about getting an employment attorney and seeing if I had any case at all.

  16. drug monkey  •  Sep 25, 2012 @5:56 pm

    I am in the same boat as all of you.Thansk to wal-mart. Worked my ass off gor 3 whole years and got fired ………

  17. Another One  •  Dec 3, 2012 @11:22 am

    I was fired last week along with my partner. He has 20 years with wal-mart and I have 15. We were fired for loaning meds (albuterol nebs) to a neighboring independent.
    We both have spotless records as pharmacists- he nearly 40 years and my own 25. It’s just unbelievable. Devastated doesn’t even begin to cover my feelings.

    Bottom line is….I think they are firing us older, long-term people. They have to pay us more, we have 4 or 5 weeks of vacation, our healthcare is bound to cost more than a younger persons, and we’re more likely to take time off for a medical procedure. All-in-all, it’s a business decision to increase the slim profit margin. There’s a surplus of pharmacists now after the last decade of crazy school openings.

    Wal-mart sends a loss-prevention person in to grill our techs until they find some irregularity, then it’s just a formality to get us to admit to this heinous crime. Take you license off the wall and don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

    At nearly 50 years old, with 3 kids in college next year and fired for theft on my record…what are my options? Thanks Wal-mart!

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