Merck financial director fails to secure injunction

Irish executive claims German pharma group’s actions will damage her reputation

The High Court has dismissed an application by a finance director with pharmaceutical company Merck for an injunction preventing her employer from dismissing her. Photograph: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

The High Court has dismissed an application by a finance director with pharmaceutical company Merck for an injunction preventing her employer from dismissing her. Photograph: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

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The High Court has dismissed an application by a finance director with pharmaceutical company Merck for an injunction preventing her employer from dismissing her.

In her judgement on Friday, Ms Justice Teresa Pilkington said Barbara Whooley had not made a strong case that would allow the court to grant an injunction that would remain in place until the dispute has been determined.

Ms Whooley, who the judge said had “a stellar career” in her 25 years of employment, had sought various orders against her employer Merck Millipore Ltd of Tullagreen, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, whose German parent is Merck KGaA, based in Darmstadt, Germany.

These included an injunction preventing the defendants from dismissing her or interfering with her salary or benefits, and, if necessary, an injunction compelling her employer to pay her a severance package.

She also sought an order restraining the German parent company from unlawfully interfering with the contractual relationship between her and Merck Millipore.

The application was to put the injunctions in place until her case against the two companies concluded. The defendants opposed the application. They claimed the employment of Mrs Whooley of Lindville, Blackrock Road was lawfully terminated after it gave her three months notice in mid-October and has offered to pay her €100,000.

She had worked for the company in Cork for many years, including spending the last four years on secondment to the German parent. She had recently returned to work in Ireland, as she did not wish to continue the secondment.

She had hoped to return to a similar position she had previously held in Cork. Following her return to Cork, she claimed her employers told her on October 1st last that she had been deemed to have resigned. She rejected claims she resigned and fears the defendant’s actions will damage her reputation.

She claimed that, as no suitable job in Cork was available, she was entitled to an appropriate redundancy package.

Damages

She now seeks damages and various orders against the defendants including a declaration that she did not resign from her employment with the Irish based company, and that she remains an employee of Merck Millipore.

The defendants accepted that Mrs Whooley had not resigned and argued her employment was lawfully terminated last October.

The defendants said she had been offered a job within the group, but following months of discussions had turned that position down.

There was no post available for her in Cork and, they argued, she was now seeking a redundancy package she not contractually entitled to.

In her ruling, Ms Justice Pilkington said that she was not granting an injunction. The issues raised by the plaintiff, including her claim that her reputation had been damaged, could be raised at the full hearing of the dispute.

In the court’s view it was “extraordinarily unlikely that Mrs Whooley’s employment with the company will continue”.

The employer was clear in its wish to terminate Mrs Whooley’s employment, the judge said.

The judge said that the employer had accepted that Mrs Whooley had not resigned, which the judge said had altered the position significantly. While that concession had been made belatedly it was one the judge and the court had to have regard to.

The judge said the court cannot resolve at this stage of the proceedings if Mrs Whooley is entitled to a package of redundancy.

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