Feebleness Alleged in NFL Drug Testing
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - The company that oversees drug-testing in the NFL constructively fired a vice president after she voiced concerns about a certified specimen collector, the former executive claims in court.
Andrea Wickerham sued The National Center for Drug Free Sport in Jackson County Court.
Wickerham oversaw drug testing programs for the NCAA, Big 12 and Big 10 Conferences, three high school activities associations and more than 200 individual college or university athletic department drug testing programs. She was with the company for 13 years before being forced to resign by Drug Free President Frank Uryasz, the lawsuit states.
Wickerham claims there was a scandal in July 2013 regarding the improper testing of an NFL player.
(The complaint does not name the NFL player. Denver Broncos standout Von Miller received a six-game suspension after questions about Miller's drug tester surfaced in July 2013. A New York Daily News article linked Miller to a "star struck" collector from Drug Free who allowed Miller to try to cheat the test.)
According to the lawsuit: "In September or October of 2013, the Senior Director of NFL testing for the company came to plaintiff, after the company became aware of the issue, and in conversation told plaintiff that he had previously informed the other vice president of Drug Free that there were problems with the certified collector for this NFL player.
"The employee stated that the other vice president had not addressed the above concerns because he was afraid the company would lose the NFL as a client."
Wickerham says she told Uryasz about the issue.
After making the report, Wickerham says, she was excluded from the investigation though it was within an area she oversaw. In January, she says, she was informed that the other vice president was being made chief operating officer and that she would report directly to him.
Despite being a member of the executive team, Wickerham says, she was excluded from conversations pertaining to the promotion and then excluded from company-wide decision-making and was no longer considered part of the executive team.
"At the end of February 2014, plaintiff met with Frank Uryasz, at which time plaintiff informed him that she was bothered by the fact that she was no longer involved in the highest level of the company or the decision making process; and was no longer included in the company strategic planning or staffing decisions, even those that fell directly within her area of responsibility," the complaint states.
"During this meeting, plaintiff told Frank Uryasz that she considered herself to be demoted in part because of her concerns of unethical behavior as it related to the vice president.
"Plaintiff expressed that the treatment she was experiencing was hostile and that she believed Uryasz wanted her gone from the company despite her many years of loyal service."
Uryasz is named in the lawsuit as the team's registered agent, but not as an individual defendant.
Wickerham says she reiterated her concerns during a meeting with Uryasz on March 3.
"The next meeting with Uryasz was on March 10, 2014," the complaint states. "Both Uryasz and his wife Ann were present. At the start of the meeting Uryasz informed plaintiff that he was accepting her resignation even though she never submitted a resignation nor intended to do so. Uryasz went on to state that he was accepting plaintiff's resignation because '[Plaintiff] could no longer manage [her] staff' and that 'because of the allegations you have made it is too awkward to have you here.'
"Plaintiff was told not to come into the office for the next two weeks. Plaintiff asked if she was being terminated and Uryasz stated 'No, I am accepting your resignation.'
"Plaintiff was told to leave her company cell phone, ipad, laptop and any other company property on her desk. When she returned to her desk, plaintiff learned that she had already been denied access to emails and the computer system." (Brackets in complaint.)
An attorney representing Drug Free did not respond to a request for comment.
Wickerham seeks punitive damages for wrongful termination in violation of public policy - whistle blowing. She is represented by Kirk D. Holman with Holman Schiavone.