Pharma firm cleared of constructively dismissing analyst who claimed he was subjected to ‘ambush’

Lab analyst had accused investigators at Pinewood Healthcare Laboratories of ‘blackmail’

A medicines lab analyst who accused investigators of subjecting him to “blackmail” and “the most humiliating experience of my life” during a data audit has lost his claim for constructive dismissal.

Michael Molumby had accused an ex-garda detective hired by his employer, Pinewood Healthcare Laboratories, of subjecting him to “an ambush and an assault on my good name” when he was interviewed in the summer of 2020.

The tribunal heard that former detective was engaged along with a former medicines regulatory inspector to examine data issues at the firm’s quality assurance lab.

The company’s position was that the issues would have shut down its plant if they had been discovered by the national regulator instead of internally – and that they had already led to the sacking of one member of staff.


It denied constructively dismissing Mr Molumby.

Mr Molumby’s complaint against the company under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 was rejected in a decision published on Tuesday by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

It found there was “nothing abnormal” about Pinewood’s investigation into “data integrity issues” at the lab and that there had been “no threat” to the complainant’s job when he was interviewed by the investigators.

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The complainant had not succeeded in making out a case that he had been “intimidated or harassed” by the investigators and that he had failed to exhaust internal grievance procedures when he resigned in September 2020, the tribunal found.

Mr Molumby said in his evidence that he had worked at another lab run by Pinewood prior to transferring in to the one at the centre of the data investigation.

He said standards were not as high in his new lab, and that when he raised the question of data integrity with his manager soon after he arrived, he was told: “This is the way we do it.”

He said peer review of chromatograph readings was “very limited”, with the workload at the facility having gone up “tenfold over the years” with no increase in staffing.

Mr Molumby said he thought he was going in for an “informal chat” in July 2020 with the two external data consultants, ex-garda detective Kevin Sweeney and his associate, Stan O’Neill, a former regulator with the predecessor to the HPRA, the Irish Medicines Board.

In the interview it was “insinuated that he was guilty of malpractice by being aware of poor data integrity practices and not doing anything about it”, Mr Molumby said.

He said he was “very nervous” because of an “intimidatory atmosphere” – and also because of the recent dismissal of his supervisor.

“I was offered an ‘amnesty’ – this sounded like blackmail. I got up and walked out without signing the notepad which was pushed under my nose,” Mr Molumby wrote in a grievance to his employer. “This was the most humiliating experience of my life. It was an ambush and an assault on my good name,” he added.

Mr Sweeney denied any “aggression” in his interview of Mr Molumby, calling it “counterproductive in any interview”.

“Do you deny it?” asked the company’s barrister, Mary-Paula Guinness BL.

“I deny it, absolutely, there was no aggression, no need for it to be used,” he said.

Ms Guinness submitted that Mr Molumby was shown a chromatogram he had processed and that the analyst “acknowledged the peak was not correct and that he was not happy about it”.

“I wasn’t interested in the interviewee’s personal conduct at all. I’d no opinion on his conduct. I was looking at the culture and procedures in his current lab,” Mr Sweeney said in his evidence.

He said he told Mr Molumby: “I can offer an amnesty if you give me information here and it won’t go any further ... It’s not about individuals, it’s about the system.

The investigator’s evidence was that Mr Molumby became “highly agitated” and stood up and walked around the interview room, said he wanted to speak with his solicitor and then left.

The company’s then-HR manager, Ambrose Downey, gave evidence of receiving a grievance from Mr Molumby in late July 2020 over the interview process, immediately before the complainant took sick leave on the grounds of illness.

Mr Downey said the grievance investigation was put on hold pending Mr Molumby’s return to work.

Mr Molumby then tendered his resignation in early September, stating that his encounter with the investigation team had left his relationship with the pharma firm “compromised beyond repair”, the tribunal heard.

In his decision, adjudicating officer Peter O’Brien wrote that Mr Molumby had resigned while the company was still investigating his grievance over the interview – a process the adjudicator found had not been “unreasonably delayed”.

He found Mr Molumby was “well within his rights” to refuse consent to have the interview recorded, but that the lack of a recording was “detrimental” to his case that he was intimidated and harassed.

Mr O’Brien found there had been “no mention of any misconduct or disciplinary action” in the interview and that there was “no threat to [Mr Molumby’s] job”.

The complainant “did not offer any convincing evidence of any situation that would not allow him to continue in employment”, he added.

Mr O’Brien found Mr Molumby “did not have sufficient grounds to justify his resignation” and ruled the complainant was not unfairly dismissed.