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NPA Files Suit Against Board Members

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AIDP

On February 4, in a Member Update email from the Natural Products Association (NPA) , Executive Director and CEO Daniel Fabricant addressed membership informing them that action had been taken against the NPA. The email also announced that the NPA filed claims in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against 10 current and former members of the Board of Directors of the NPA.

“NPA’s court filing describes a pattern of conduct by these individuals that sought to undermine NPA’s ability to do its work for their personal whims, and nothing more. While no one likes litigation, NPA needed to take this action for the association to protect itself,” Fabricant said in the email. “In addition, recent allegations made against NPA by the same former employee are false and they will ultimately fail as NPA has asserted in a separate court filing. NPA will continue to vigorously defend itself.”

In December, Brent Weickert, NPA’s former CFO, filed a lawsuit against the NPA and Dan Fabricant. Represented by Kathleen M. Hartman, Esq. of Callahan Thompson Sherman & Caudill, LLP, Irvine, CA, the suit listed complaints, including, wrongful termination in violation of public policy; retaliation in violation of FEHA; intentional infliction of emotional distress; failure to pay vested vacation time; failure to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation in violation of FEHA; religious and sexual harassment-hostile work environment in violation of FEHA; and more. Detailed information of the suit filed can be found here.

A copy of the NPA’s lawsuit can be found here. Exhibits listed included emails between Weickert and other members of the board, credit card statements, social media feeds of Weickert, emails between Fabricant and Weickert, and more.

Weickert was employed by NPA from September 2, 1997 until October 15, 2015, as the senior vice president/chief financial officer; working out of an office in Paso Robles, CA, according to the summons. He alleged that Fabricant created a hostile work environment at NPA and misused funds.

According to CEOUpdate.com, Weickert wrote a letter to Board President Roxanne Green  in May 2015. The letter advised NPA about multiple issues, including that Fabricant’s “drinking had become excessive” and that his “abusive behavior had driven away multiple female employees.”

Green said in a statement, “We will vigorously defend the case and are confident we will prevail. We have the utmost confidence in Dr. Fabricant and his ability to continue leading the organization which he has helped to expand, modernize and strengthen the natural products industry.”

CEOUpdate.com reported on a motion to dismiss filed in January, that NPA countered the filed charges noting that Weickert was an at-will employee who was properly terminated for several reasons: “Faced with a budget shortfall, the executive committee determined it would be cheaper to outsource his job functions. Also, Weickert working from his home in California was ‘not necessarily efficient or prudent from a control and reporting standpoint,’” the article detailed.

The motion stated that Weickert never witnessed the harassment of female employees personally; and therefore cannot seek damages for a hostile work environment.

“Even in the face of the structural challenges that existed prior to my arrival, NPA is stronger than it has ever been,” Fabricant said in the member email.  “NPA has re-established itself as the most effective advocate for defending your business. Look no further than the re-introduction of the FSA/HSA Bill, our work on the recent Frontline story, our numerous grassroots victories from last year, and the plethora of comments we have submitted over the past 19 months. Other organizations may focus on hosting an event or show or holding a meeting to stroke egos.  But at the end of the day, when the industry’s back is against the wall—whether in Congress, state legislatures, regulatory agencies, attorneys general or in court—it has always been, and will continue to be, NPA that saves the day.”