A former Zimmer Biomet executive has temporarily lost her bid for severance pay and cannot claim company stock options after her 2016 resignation.
Robin Barney resigned from her post as a senior vice president claiming a hostile work environment, alleging sex discrimination, breach of contract, and constructive or involuntary discharge.
Barney became Zimmer’s SVP of global operations and logistics after serving as an SVP at Biomet since 2008. (The companies merged in 2015.) Barney alleged that Zimmer told her in August 2016 that her position would be moved from Indiana to Switzerland by the end of 2017, requiring her to relocate. Barney refused.
She also alleged that in October 2016, “Zimmer’s CFO demanded that she concoct a story to mislead Zimmer’s investors about the cause of recent quarterly shortfalls,” court documents said. Barney refused again. She also claimed that the company pressured her about sales and product shipments related to one of its facilities, even though production had already been shut down at that facility due to an FDA audit.
Barney claimed that Zimmer CEO David Dvorak ordered her to terminate employees under a false pretext in October 2016. Again she refused and claimed she was told that Dvorak “was not happy with her refusal, and that they would talk further about it.”
Barney submitted her resignation that same day, later claiming that she had no choice because these incidents constituted intolerable conditions, and “she further wished to extricate herself from the potential securities fraud being committed by other executives,” court documents said.
U.S. District Court Judge Jon DiGuilio dismissed Barney’s claim for severance pay because Barney did not specifically claim in her lawsuit that she told Zimmer within 30 days that she would not relocate to Switzerland. DiGuilio allowed her the ability to make this claim again.
The court also found that she didn’t qualify for vesting of stock options because she hadn’t worked for Zimmer for 10 years. Ruling from U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana, South Bend Division, DiGuilio also said that Barney had “not made sufficient allegations that anyone at Zimmer led her to reasonably believe that she would be terminated for refusing to mislead investors (or for refusing to terminate employees, for that matter)….
“In sum, Barney has failed to adequately allege that Zimmer breached its Employment Agreement with her, or that Zimmer subjected her to a wrongful constructive discharge,” the judge concluded.