Retrenched GSK employee sues over not being considered for other roles in company

The retrenched employee is suing GSK consumer healthcare for about $1.35 million. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - He was required to relocate to Singapore after he became a global expert director for nutrition and digestive health business at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) consumer healthcare.

About two years later, Mr Kallivalap Praveen Nair was retrenched on grounds of redundancy.

He is now suing the company for about $1.35 million, arguing he was not considered for various roles within the company.

In a trial beginning on Wednesday (July 27), Mr Nair said this was a result of GSK consumer healthcare breaching its employment agreement and that had he been given the opportunity to be considered for the roles, he would likely have secured one and would not have been made redundant, according to court documents.

The sum he is seeking from GSK consumer healthcare includes about $1.15 million for loss in income as he has been unemployed since June 30, 2020, and about $150,000 which he said was a shortfall in the amount in his severance package.

GSK consumer healthcare has counterclaimed against Mr Nair, seeking about $95,200 from his severance package which it said was paid to him by mistake.

Mr Praveen Nair, who moved from India to Singapore in June 2018, is represented by Mr Vikram Nair from Rajah & Tann.

In court documents, Mr Vikram Nair said GSK consumer healthcare deprived his client the opportunity to be considered for roles with consumer goods company Unilever to which GSK sold its nutrition business to in April 2020.

He added his client was left off a list of personnel eligible for assessment for Unilever roles published by GSK consumer healthcare in early May 2019.

When Mr Praveen Nair asked his manager why this was so, the manager suggested that this may have been motivated by GSK consumer healthcare's perception that he would be a threat to its consumer business if he had taken up the equivalent of a global expert role in Unilever.

This is denied by GSK consumer healthcare, which is being represented by Wong & Leow. In its defence, GSK consumer healthcare said that Mr Praveen Nair was invited to several interviews with Unilever but was ultimately not selected by the firm.

On June 11, 2019, GSK consumer healthcare said in an e-mail that a new global head of expert marketing role had been created and that Ms Tess Player, an employee, had been appointed to that role.

Mr Praveen Nair said there was no indication prior to the announcement that the new role had been created and he was not given the opportunity to apply for it.

He argued that by failing to disclose the creation of the new role, GSK consumer healthcare is in breach of its employment agreement.

Mr Vikram Nair said that in retaliation for his client's probing into Ms Player's appointment in the new role, he was not fairly considered for other roles.

He added that it also led to his client getting a shorter notice period compared with other retrenched GSK consumer healthcare personnel from the nutrition and digestive health business.

GSK consumer healthcare said in its defence that Mr Praveen Nair was denied the roles because he was found unsuitable and that he was given the notice period as contractually provided for in the employment contract.

The trial continues on Thursday.

Correction note: An earlier version of this article referred to the defendant as GSK. The defendant is GSK consumer healthcare. GSK consumer healthcare demerged from GSK Group on July 18 this year. We are sorry for the error.

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