A Kenyan woman who was fired by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) four years ago while on maternity leave wants the company compelled to deposit more than Sh100 million in court, pending the determination of a case she has filed.
Pauline Wambui wants the company, which has announced plans to exit Kenya this month and adopt a distributor-led model to supply its products, to deposit the money before the exit.
She says the company is in the process of exiting and has been seeking clearance from various government bodies such as the Kenya Revenue Authority, the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, and the Registrar of Companies.
“That upon their exit, all the persons to whom they owe obligations like those with pending cases in court will be left destitute without the assurance of redress,” she said in the case to be heard before the High Court on March 9.
Ms Wambui has sued the pharmaceutical giant in other cases pending at the Employment and Labour Relations court over unfair termination.
She now wants the directors and general manager of the firm summoned to court and explain why they should not deposit the money as prayed.
She said in the court papers that GSK released 87 sales employees in December 2022 and the remaining support staff might be released beginning this March and she is apprehensive that the company’s operations might cease by May 2023.
“Upon being cleared by these government establishments GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Kenya Limited will simply and quietly exit the country,” she said, adding that the company should not be allowed to escape liability.
She says in the case before the Labour court that she was employed as a medical sales representative on a permanent basis in April 2011, earning a salary of Sh262,000.
She was fired on August 8, 2018, for allegedly whistleblowing on alleged malpractices in the Kenyan office.
Ms Wambui says her main areas of operations were hospitals ICU, theatre, wards, procurement and distributors.
The job entailed making regular calls to doctors, nurses, pharmacies, distributors and hospitals as well as government pharmacies, among others.
She says she was accused of falsifying calls to one of the doctors. Ms Wambui was eight months pregnant then and the allegations caused her stress and her doctor recommended rest.
She thereafter proceeded on maternity leave but the company summoned her for a disciplinary hearing. She was handed the letter when she reported back on August 8, 2018.
The woman says she underwent two major surgeries and was breastfeeding at the time she was fired and believes that she was shown the door for whistleblowing.
This is after contacting the UK offices through a channel established called the ‘speak up integrity channel’, to explain some of the issues concerning the company. The channel is open to employees and the public to raise any issue.