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6/20/2004

Suit claims firing not called for

By Paula Aven Gladych
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — A former employee of Wild Oats Markets Inc. whose job was stopping theft was fired for doing his job, according to a lawsuit filed in Boulder County District Court on May 26.

William Navarre, the company’s former national loss-prevention director, asked the courts to enter a judgment against Wild Oats for issues related to wrongful termination.

Hired in August 1999, Navarre was hired by Wild Oats because of his “considerable experience in the field of loss prevention and investigations,” according to the suit.

One of his responsibilities was to develop a background investigation program for employees.

He also was tasked with investigating and reporting on employee theft or other employee criminal behavior, the lawsuit said.

Navarre said in his lawsuit that over his objections, “Wild Oats management retained employees who were stealing from the company and failed to put into place (his) recommendations for stopping this internal theft.”

The lawsuit also accused the company’s vice president of human resources of overruling Navarre’s advice concerning “hiring or retention of employees with criminal backgrounds or who had committed theft at work.”

Specifically, the lawsuit listed an incident in which the HR director “vetoed Mr. Navarre’s recommendations concerning an employee who was a friend of Mr. Williams and who had stolen files from the company.”

Wild Oats managers “told Mr. Navarre that he was too diligent about pursuing employee theft and preventing persons with criminal convictions from working in financially sensitive positions,” according to the suit.

Navarre was fired April 7, 2003, at a meeting in which he “complained that an employee with a felony conviction for embezzlement had been allowed to remain with Wild Oats in a financially responsible position.”

“The reason given for Mr. Navarre’s termination was that Mr. Navarre’s philosophy about loss prevention was inconsistent with company philosophy,” the lawsuit stated.

Wild Oats did not respond to calls regarding the lawsuit.

Paula Aven Gladych can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 211, or by e-mail at pavengladych@times-call.com.