Finance director challenges Cork employer who says she is 'deemed to have resigned'

By Ann O'Loughlin

A 52-year-old finance director has launched a High Court action challenging a contention by the pharmaceutical company where she has worked many years that she is "deemed to have resigned".

The action has been brought by Barbara Whooley, against her employer Merck Millipore Ltd of Tullagreen, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork whose German parent is Merck KGaA, based in Darmstadt, Germany.

The court heard Ms Whooley of Lindville, Blackrock Road, Cork spent the last four years on secondment to the German parent.

She had recently returned to work in Ireland.

However on her return to Cork in early October, she was asked to leave the premises by a HR manager at the firm.

She then took a flight to Germany and attended for work at the parent company, but at the end of the working day was told to "go home" by a superior, the court heard.

Ms Whooley who is a qualified accountant was subsequently told by her employer that she was "deemed to have resigned" from the company in early October, and said it would pay her a further three months salary.

At the High Court, Tom Mallon Bl for Ms Whooley said his client strongly disputes her employer's contention and also fears that her employer's actions will damage her reputation.

Counsel said there is no concept in Irish law where an employee is "deemed to have resigned".

Counsel said that in 2014 his client agreed to an initial two-year secondment to Germany, which involved a lot of travel over and back to Germany. The secondment was extended by another two years and finished up earlier this year.

Counsel said that his client's work in Germany was "highly successful".

She received a "triple-A rating", which only the top 2% of employees achieve, counsel said.

However, things had recently gone awry after his client decided to return to work in Cork, and did not want to continue the secondment agreement.

While it was accepted her job in Cork had long since gone counsel said she was looking for a similar position that she had before the secondment or an appropriate severance package.

Counsel said that his client was now concerned that given her purported departure that her reputation will be damaged.

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.

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

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

At the High Court this week Ms Whooley's lawyers secured permission to serve short notice of her proceedings on Merk Millipore Ltd and Merck KGaA.

The judge, who granted permission on an ex parte basis said the case can come back to court next week.

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