Sunday 25 February 2018

Manager's board meeting declaration taken as resignation, High Court hears

A MANAGER at a major bathroom suppliers, who told his bosses one of his personal goals was to "move on" from the company, was later told this was being taken as his resignation, the High Court heard.

Michael Hannigan (42), purchasing and logistics manager at Merlyn Industries Ltd, today obtained a temporary injunction restraining the Kilkenny-based company from taking any steps whatsoever on foot of the termination of his employment, which is in dispute.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna also granted an order, pending the full hearing of the matter, directing the company to continue paying Mr Hannigan, a married father of four from Cut Bush, the Curragh, Co

Kildare. The application was made on a one-side only represented basis and will come before the court again next week.

Tom Mallon BL, for Mr Hannigan, told the judge his client was asked to make a presentation to a board meeting on Friday April 20 last, at which he was to give an overview of his goals and objectives for the coming year as well as detailing his achievements in the past year.

He did so and "rather foolishly" said one of his personal goals was to move on from the company in the next year if he could get another job, adding however that this could take any amount of time, counsel said.

This was not a statement that he wished to resign, Mr Mallon said. It was the goal of most employees to move on to a better job, if they could get one and there is nothing wrong with that, counsel said.

In an affidavit, Mr Hannigan, who earns €105,000 a year, says he has not been subject of any disciplinary sanction since joining Merlyn in March 2009.

He did not intend the "move on" remark to be "anything more than an indication of a future wish and most particularly I did not intend my statement would be a resignation."

There were no remarks passed by board members about it, but the following Monday he attended a pre-scheduled meeting with Merlyn CEO Charlie Soden, who eventually told him the company accepted his resignation. Despite telling Mr Soden this was not the case, Mr Soden said as far as he and the other directors were concerned, it was an open-ended resignation.

In an unsigned letter handed to Mr Hannigan by Mr Soden that same day, the CEO said he could not accept that it was openly known in the company that Mr Hannigan's actual personal goal was to find a role outside Merlyn.

This was "a message and culture which is not acceptable to the company," Mr Soden said.

Mr Hannigan then invoked the company's grievance procedure and an outside human resources advisor to Merlyn issued a report in which she said both sides had agreed it was not possible to have an open-ended resignation. The advisor made an overall finding that an agreed deadline should be applied to Mr Hannigan's resignation.

Mr Hannigan disagreed with this finding and believed what the company was doing was a dismissal without notice. He later received a P45 (end of employment notice) despite his solicitors having sent correspondence to the company seeking undertakings in relation to his employment.

Counsel for Mr Hannigan said the letter from Mr Soden should never have been provided because it showed a decision had already been made to dismiss him. Instead, Mr Hannigan should have received a warning his statement might constitute misconduct and the company should then have held an inquiry, counsel said.

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