Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Pharmacist claims he was wrongfully terminated to avoid contractual obligations


By Karen Kidd | Aug 15, 2019

Fired Medicine Express President Richard Sprehe |

BELLEVILLE — A St. Clair County pharmacist alleges he was wrongfully fired earlier this year as president of a Fairview Heights-based pharmaceutical company in order to avoid contractual obligations before the defendant closed the division he managed.

Richard Sprehe filed suit in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Medicine Express LLC, alleging breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and unjust enrichment.

Medicine Express did not respond to a request for comment from the Record.

According to the eight-page lawsuit, the allegations stem from a three-year employment agreement signed July 2018 between Medicine Express and Sprehe in which the company "agreed to continue to employee Sprehe as its president under the terms and conditions set forth therein."

The compensation section of the employment agreement provided Sprehe with a gross annual base salary of $166,000, merit-based bonuses at Medicine Express' discretion, a one-time "Rx Bonus" of $50,000, a $500 monthly automobile allowance and other benefits, according to the lawsuit.

The employment agreement could be terminated by either party, including "for cause,” the suit states.

"Sprehe was responsible for the management of both defendant's retail pharmacy and defendant's long-term care pharmacy," according to the lawsuit.

However, in July of last year, Sprehe alleges Medicine Express hired another employee to manage the company's long-term care division, and Sprehe "was relegated to managing the operations of only the retail division."

Then in February, Medicine Express sent Sprehe a letter "which purported to outline the grounds upon which defendant terminated Sprehe's employment for cause, effective immediately," the suit states.

The letter alleged that Sprehe "violated employment policies, refused to provide 24/7 on-call pharmacy service, refused to comply with reasonable company directives, and engaged in activities in conflict with the best interests of the company," according to the complaint.

Sprehe claims Medicine Express never advised him of any complaints against him, never disciplined him over his conduct or performance and never gave him "an opportunity to cure any alleged misconduct or performances deficiencies before sending the termination letter."

"Upon information and belief, no documentation exists that supports defendant's purported reasons to terminate Sprehe's employment," the lawsuit states.

The same day Sprehe was fired, Medicine Express allegedly fired the retail division's store manager and notified other employees in the division that their positions were being eliminated. Then, about two weeks later, Medicine Express closed the division, according to the complaint.

Sprehe alleges Medicine Express manufactured cause to fire the plaintiff "to avoid responsibility" for its obligations under his employment contract.

"As a direct and proximate result of defendant’s breaches of the employment agreement, Sprehe has suffered damages in that Sprehe was deprived of his compensation under Section 4 of the employment agreement and the remainder of the employment term," the suit states.

Sprehe seeks a judgment against Medicine Express and an award of damages, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest "and any other relief this court may deem just and proper."

The lawsuit was filed on Sprehe's behalf by St. Louis attorneys Elizabeth T. Gross, Jon A. Bierman and Sara J. Robertson.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 19-L-524

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