Court told company hired investigator to `spy' on employee


The managing director of a travel company told the High Court yesterday she had been shocked to discover her employers had hired a private investigator to "spy" on her.

Ms Annette Mink (39), of The Garden House, Kilruddery, Bray, Co Wicklow, is seeking a restraining order against Europ Assistance (Ireland) Ltd, with registered offices at Clanwilliam Square, Grand Canal Quay, Dublin, and against the parent company, Europ Assistance Holdings Ltd of Croydon, Surrey. Europ Assistance specialises in travel insurance services.

The order, which would continue until the hearing of her action, seeks to restrain the companies dismissing, demoting or removing her from her job as managing director and secretary of the Irish company.

Mr Ercus Stewart SC, for Ms Mink, said the UK company did not seem to recognise the Irish company as a legal entity in its own right. On May 5th this year Ms Mink was certified sick. She was certified fit to return to work on September 21st this year and did return.

But the managing director of the UK company, Mr Paul Monks, directed she should not return and that she should go to a meeting in England, counsel said. She did not go. She had not received any pay since the end of August this year.

Mr Stewart said his client had issued High Court proceedings. In July she discovered she was being watched and that this "spying" operation was carried out for three days.

In an affidavit, Ms Mink claimed that following a board meeting of the Irish company in June last year, the management of the UK company effectively took over the running of the Irish company. She had remained as managing director in name only and her role was confined to sales.

At a meeting in February this year, Mr Monks criticised her performance and accused her of being negative. His dismissive attitude towards her ideas and concerns had taken a serious toll on her mental health. In May this year, on medical advice, she was obliged to take sick leave.

In July this year she and her partner had noticed an unknown man "lurking" around the estate. From reports it became clear he was inquiring about her. He was confronted by a security man who worked on the housing estate and admitted he was a private investigator. She believed he was hired by the companies to spy on her. Her mental state relapsed as a result.

In an affidavit, Mr Monks said the order to restrain her dismissal or removal was unnecessary as those matters had not occurred and there was no proposal that they would occur. She had absented herself from her position since May. The companies remained concerned by the manner in which Ms Mink had conducted herself in recent months.

It was of considerable concern to him and the companies' shareholders that Ms Mink, being a person in a senior position, did not adopt a more responsible attitude towards keeping the companies informed of her position.

Mr Monks said the proposed appointment of a sales manager did not relate to Ms Mink's position.

Her action in seeking to restrain this new appointment indicated her complete failure to have regard for the needs of the Irish company and her disregard for its future continued success.

The hearing continues today.