Wednesday 7 December 2016

Former employee claims she was bullied at Prone's PR firm

Edel Kennedy

Published 14/07/2011 | 05:00

Karagh Fox arrives at the Employment Appeals Tribunal on Adelaide Road in Dublin
Karagh Fox arrives at the Employment Appeals Tribunal on Adelaide Road in Dublin
Ruth Hickey, the woman at the centre of the bullying allegations
PR guru Terry Prone

A FORMER employee of Terry Prone's Communications Clinic Ltd has claimed she was constructively dismissed after being bullied and humiliated at the public relations company.

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Karagh Fox (26) told an Employment Appeals Tribunal yesterday that senior consultant Ruth Hickey "screamed" at her in front of colleagues and reduced her to tears.

Ms Fox, of Rathfarnham, Dublin, claims she also lost a subsequent job as a result of her bringing the case against the company.

She is seeking compensation from the Communications Clinic for constructive dismissal.

Ms Fox told the tribunal that her former colleague Ms Hickey -- who has a child with Adele 'Twink' King's former husband -- "humiliated" her. She gave details of how she would often be speaking to a journalist on the phone and Ms Hickey would instruct her on what to say while also "tut-tutting and raising her eyes to heaven".

"On numerous occasions, she belittled me in front of my colleagues and people in the office," she said.

Terrified

"She shouted and screamed at me in front of people and made me feel as though my work wasn't good enough."

Ms Fox detailed a number of confrontations with Ms Hickey and said she spoke to her about it. She added that the conversations resulted in her praising Ms Hickey's work, as Ms Hickey had raised the fact that Ms Fox had a college degree while she did not.

Ms Fox said she complained of the alleged bullying to Anton Savage, the company's managing director and Ms Prone's son.

"I was shaking like a leaf, I was terrified I suppose," she said when asked by her barrister how she felt when she told Mr Savage of the alleged abuse.

Ms Fox said she was given a copy of the company's grievance procedure, but that she felt she was being "interrogated" by Mr Savage about the allegations after she submitted them in writing.

"He told me he had spent five company days working on it and that cost €15,000 and that he was doing this now," she told her legal representative, Niamh McGowan BL, adding that Mr Savage was "sarcastic" in his responses to her.

She later went to a doctor who suggested counselling.

"It was extremely helpful; I learned coping methods."

She had begun working at the company in March 2008, the same month as Ms Hickey, but didn't return to work after November 25, 2009.

"I'd go in every morning terrified of what was going to happen, maybe Ruth would explode, or Anton would badger me about specific complaints (about Ruth) which I couldn't give him.

"The month to when I left was the hardest, I actually don't know how I got up every morning and went into work.

"It was a horrible, horrible place to be... that was how I felt."

She said Mr Savage's conclusion of her complaint was that there was "no evidence of anything".

However, this was disputed by Mr Savage, who said no conclusion was reached.

He said he had met with Ms Fox a number of times to discuss the complaints, including in a meeting held solely to outline the grievance procedure.

Ms Fox also agreed that he had told her that if she didn't feel up to the meeting, she could go home at any time.

He also disputed that Ms Fox had told him that Ms Hickey had screamed at her in front of colleagues.

Ms Fox also told the tribunal that she had gotten a job with Mullingar Chamber of Commerce in March 2010, but was made redundant in February 2011. She said the "issue of the case I was bringing" against her former employer came up in conversation in her new role.

"I was told they heard through political contacts," she said. No further details of her redundancy from the Chamber of Commerce were given.

She gave details that her annual salary with the Communications Clinic was €30,000 while her salary in Mullingar was €27,500.

Tribunal chairman Charles Corcoran said Ms Hickey would be required to give evidence and adjourned the hearing until October.

Irish Independent

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